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Raw milk cheese and other unpasteurized dangers?

Food Tourist Sep 13, 2008 09:45 AM

I love illegal raw milk cheese, unpasteurized honey, etc. However, being stuck at home for two days with food poisoning (the only symptom requires Immodium - no fever or pain) really sucks. I don't know whether to attribute it to: possibly slightly undercooked fresh gourmet sausage and bacon that I had frozen for a week or two and then thawed in the fridge before cooking; slightly undercooked boiled egg that was slightly past the due date before cooking; 2-day old stir fry that contained large from-frozen shrimps; a latte from Second Cup that took me an hour to drink; a grocery store-prepared fruit salad; or some raw milk 3 year aged cheddar that has been in my fridge since August 18th and from which I had to scrape off a light coating of mold. Wow, I live on the edge, eh? Short of throwing out the entire contents of my fridge and only eating bananas and white bread from now on, what do you think is the likely culprit? I ask about the raw milk cheese because I have a couple of food-obsessed friends who are actually afraid of the bacteria and will only eat pasteurized because of horror stories they've heard. Have you had any bad experiences with unpasteurized bacteria?

  1. Father Kitchen Sep 26, 2008 05:18 PM

    There was a good PBS program called "The Cheese Nun" that covered aspects of cheese production, including raw milk cheeses, that Chow Hounds might want to know about. The program is available on DVD. One of the best U.S. cheeses, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, is a raw milk cheese. I'd be careful that a raw milk cheese is made from raw milk controlled for bacterial contamination. Otherwise, there are some indications that raw milk is actually healthier. See the Weston A. Price website if you want to get another perspective on the raw milk debate.

    1. Sam Fujisaka Sep 20, 2008 06:51 PM

      A lot of speculation above. Another batch (of speculation):

      1. Slightly undercooked fresh gourmet sausage and bacon frozen for a week or two, thawed, and cooked: Low probability of being contaminated if cooked properly prior to serving.

      2. Slightly undercooked boiled egg that was slightly past the due date before cooking: Low probability.

      3. 2-day old stir fry that contained large from-frozen shrimps: Moderate risk.

      4. Latte from Second Cup that took me an hour to drink: Low to no risk.

      5. Grocery store-prepared fruit salad: Low risk.

      6. Raw milk 3 year aged cheddar in fridge since 18 Aug 18th and from which I had to scrape off a light coating of mold: Low risk.

      Conclusion: with a complete absence of needed information, my added speculation would vote for the left-over stir fry with shrimp.

      1. irisav Sep 18, 2008 09:32 PM

        Concerned by your use of immodium. Immodium doesn't treat the cause of your food poisoning all it does is halt the symptoms. Diarrhea provided you keep yourself sufficiently hydrated shouldn't cause too much harm and should be left to run its course as this is your body's way of dealing with the bacterial infection and/or bacterial toxin, the effect of immodium will prevent your body from excreting bacterial toxin/bacteria and may in fact prolong the duration of your illness. Many doctors would only recommend use of immodium if you need to travel. Of course this information only applies in relatively mild/moderate cases if your worried you should consult your doctor particularly if you're in pain, it persists for a long period of time (especially if you have been traveling in developing countries), you're passing blood etc.

        As for likely culprits, undercooked sausage and bacon and undercooked egg strike me as the most probable. Sausage (even the gourmet variety) involve various off cuts of meat that can easily have become cross contaminated by the GI tract of the animal during the slaughtering process - you should never consume undercooked sausages, the boiled egg would depend on how undercooked it was. Both sources present the risk of salmonella or staph. aureus.

        You can almost certainly disregard the latte as the milk would be pasteurised and on top of that steamed to approx 60 degrees celsius (sorry from a metric country don't know what that is in f) which would be sufficient to kill off a significant amount of any bacteria that may be present. The same goes for the cheddar, even though it is raw milk based it is still a hard cheese, if 3 years of aging isn't going to poison you I highly doubt an extra month will (mould seems unlikely to cause food poisoning).

        The fruit salad is a candidate dependent on the food handling practices of the store. If they're carving up a ham on a board and then using the same knife and board for the fruit salad without thoroughly cleaning them first then it is also a probable source, but without knowing the practices of the store cannot make a definitive judgement.

        As for the stir fry, it would depend on what temperature the shrimp stir fry was stored at and how well (or if) it was reheated before consumption. Although not appealing you really do have to nuke the stir fry in the the microwave before consuming. even with storage in the fridge what might have been an acceptable bacterial load (that is not an infectious dose) two days ago in the meantime could have exploded by 10-fold.

        I don't mean to lecture you, bad habit after years as a microbiology student.

        1 Reply
        1. re: irisav
          Sam Fujisaka Sep 20, 2008 06:56 PM

          The OP, I believe, froze the slightly undercooked sausage, but then cooked the sausage prior to serving.

        2. mudaba Sep 17, 2008 05:53 PM

          When I saw this post appear on the side of the page, I knew that I had to share this video that we just posted by cheese crusader Will Studd, who says that no one needs to worry about raw milk cheese: http://www.chow.com/stories/11319

          He doesn't go in-depth into reasons, but feels strongly that raw milk cheese is safe, and describes why in more depth on his website: http://www.cheesechoice.com.au/update...

          Terrible about food poisoning and terrible not to know where it came from!

          Meredith of CHOW

          7 Replies
          1. re: mudaba
            g
            green56 Sep 18, 2008 09:43 AM

            I've been eating raw milk cheeses for years and have had no problems.

            I almost soley eat RMC because their flavor is more intense. Once you have *real* Munster, "Muenster" will seem tasteless.

            Regarding Roquefort and Parmigiano Reggiano: they are *not* raw milk cheeses. They're AOC cheeses meaning a cheese can only carry that name if made in a certain location, made from certain cow/sheep/goat milk, made in a prescribed manner, etc.

            1. re: green56
              Melanie Wong Sep 18, 2008 10:02 AM

              Are you saying that all Roquefort or Parmigiano Reggiano cannot be made from raw milk? Do the AOC rules for Roquefort allow pasteurization and still carry the name?

              The Parmigiano Reggiano DOP production regulation stipulates that the milk is raw and not thermalized.
              http://www.parmigiano-reggiano.it/sot...

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                g
                green56 Sep 18, 2008 10:26 AM

                No.

                What I'm saying is that they're aren't raw milk cheeses, even though they were made with un pasteurized milk. Cheese aged over what? 60 days? 120 days? is not considered raw milk cheese. Roquefort and parmigiano are aged cheeses.

                Though Roquefort *is* heated to between something like 80-90 degrees F. But I don't think that's enough to pasteurize.

                I'm sure parmigiano starts out with raw milk and the milk is not pasteurized but it's not considered a raw milk cheese.

                1. re: green56
                  Melanie Wong Sep 18, 2008 10:32 AM

                  Maybe you could offer your definition of "raw milk cheese" then.

                  Here's the definition from the American Raw Milk Cheesemakers -
                  "We define Raw Milk Cheese as

                  Cheese produced from milk that, prior to setting the curd, has not been heated above the temperature of the milk (104° F, 40° C) at the time of milking."

                  http://www.rawmilkcheese.org/

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    g
                    green56 Sep 18, 2008 10:51 AM

                    See the part on "Aging"
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese

                    I did offer my definition of "raw milk cheese" vs. aged cheese.

                    Melanie, I'm not going to argue with you. I've offered my opinion. Anything over being aged 60 days, even if initially made with unpasteurized milk, I consider aged cheese. Please see bulavinaka's post above.

                    Maybe you're confused as to "made with unpasteurized milk" and "raw milk cheese" - or at least the connotation.

                    Given that, Parmigiano Reggiano is *made* from unpasteurized milk, but it's not considered a "raw milk cheese" as it's been aged.

                    Hope this helps.

                    1. re: green56
                      Melanie Wong Sep 18, 2008 11:09 AM

                      Thank you, you're adding a distinction between fresh and aged cheeses made with raw milk, and only consider the fresh versions to be "raw milk cheese".

                      To be sold legally in much of the US, cheeses made with raw milk must be aged 60 days or more. Guess that means that none of those can be properly called "raw milk cheeses".

                      Large formats of Munster AOC made with raw milk, which you mentioned in your initial post, are often aged for 2 to 3 months. Then they're no longer raw milk cheese, I guess.

                      1. re: green56
                        b
                        bulavinaka Sep 18, 2008 11:27 AM

                        Woah - how'd lil' ol' me get in the middle of this one? After reviewing some websites, including the two that Melanie Wong and green56 posted, I guess what I stated is pretty consistent with what is defined as raw milk cheese. As for whether aged cheese made of raw milk is still a raw milk cheese, I think by definition it is a form of raw milk cheese. Raw milk - not milk brought to pasteurization levels of heat - was used in making these particular cheeses of interest.

                        I think green56 is defining raw milk cheese as still culturally active, where this "battle" between the good and bad are possibly still playing out and the enzymes are still active. And obviously one would hope that great care was taken in every step of the cheesemaking process to assure minimizing chances of opening doors to the boogies.

                        I am assuming that if one throws in the term, "culturally active," or "culturally viable," into the definition of the term, "raw milk," then green56's definition would be accurate, but I don't see that even in the section about, "Aging," in the Wiki.

                        Obviously green56 is a very ardent supporter of raw milk cheese that is culturally active - that's fine. I am sure the health and tastes benefits have served our poster well. However, being that the FDA, USDA and other health-related groups highly recommend expectant mothers not to consume these products in general, I would take that as good advice as well. Given one's circumstances, traditions, and ideology, we all have an individual decision to make, right?

            2. DockPotato Sep 15, 2008 01:53 AM

              There are dangers - dangers, not risks - associated with unpasteurised milk products and other foods. Here in Ontario we are receiving crash course on this.

              http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/09/06/quebec-listeria.html?ref=rss

              http://www.thestar.com/article/497178

              http://www.thestar.com/article/491144

              I reckon we have a goodly number of annual deaths from food pathogens in this country, but we also have considerably more lottery winners. I haven't won yet and I'm still alive. The truth be told, risks are probably higher in our own kitchens than anything we'd encounter from off a store shelf or a restaurant menu.

              24 Replies
              1. re: DockPotato
                j
                jumpingmonk Sep 15, 2008 04:49 AM

                Not to mention the fact the listerosis, the disease at the root of all the above articles, is caused by a bacteria that enters the cheese DURING or POST production, not PRE. It's caused by improper cleaning of cheesemaking facilties or ageing/storing conditions, not any of the bacteria inherent in the milk, and can happen with more or less equal opportunity to raw or pasturized cheese. In fact the big listerosis cheese scare in the 1970's or 80's (the one that resulted in the ban on Raw Milk Vacherin cheeses from France) was ultimately traced to a batch of PASTURIZED Swiss Vacherin.

                1. re: jumpingmonk
                  jayt90 Sep 15, 2008 05:30 AM

                  One of the comments on the CBC story indicates that salmonella was found in cheese from La Chaudiere (3 of the 11 recalled). Here is the recall notice: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/c...
                  Salmonella can be introduced during processing (the water source was suspected at La Chaudiere), but it is also possible in raw milk cheese from the milk of just one unclean cow.

                  1. re: jayt90
                    maria lorraine Sep 16, 2008 09:25 PM

                    How can one pick apart the illness that may have been caused by raw milk, and illness that is the result of improper handling or sanitation?

                    Isn't it important to know if this was illness came from the cow or was caused by humans? I hate to see the cow blamed unfairly.

                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      jayt90 Sep 16, 2008 10:19 PM

                      Most cows have salmonella and listeria in their digestive tract, and if we get it from them, it is usually human error. The issue, indelicately, is incomplete cleaning between tail and udder. And that is why pasteurization is so prevalent in fresh milk or fresh cheese.

                      1. re: jayt90
                        maria lorraine Sep 17, 2008 01:18 AM

                        "Most cows have salmonella and listeria in their digestive tract."

                        Is there a data source for this?

                        (Thanks for the speaking up about the "indelicacy" -- it's good to know the source. Would that error then be a lack of attentiveness to the cleanliness of the animals, especially that prior to milking?)

                        It would be interesting to see the data for the percentage of salmonella or listeria or campy in raw milk cheeses that was traced to the animal, versus the percentage that came from improper dairy plant sanitation or other sources .

                        I'm not a fan of pasteurized milk for cheese. Killing the flavor-producing enzymes takes the cheese out of the cheese.

                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          jayt90 Sep 17, 2008 07:52 AM

                          Here is a good summary: http://www.uwex.edu/MilkQuality/PDF/z...
                          When read in it's entirety, it is quite alarming. The intro and the conclusion may be enough for many.
                          According to this summary, I will change the sentence Maria quoted, to "Some cows have salmonella and/or listeria in their digestive tracts. Most have e coli. Many cows will have two out of the three organisms in their excretions"

                          In my limited experience visiting dairy farms, I have observed the udder washed with warm soapy water, then the milking machine is attached. The area under the tail is not always washed. There is also a possibility that the handler may have touched feed before milking, and the article clearly shows that a lot of feed is contaminated.

                          Raw milk cheese is permitted in the U.S. if 60 days old or more, as the risk diminishes. Fresh raw milk cheese is available for sale in Quebec and Ontario.

                          Given the number of mishaps that might occur, I'm happy with pasteurized milk and cheese. And I'm confident in using my Kitchen Aid to prepare hamburger or sausage that may never reach 160F internally. I am a bit upset by egg yolks as a source of salmonella, as I don't want to give up over easy eggs, or raw yolk mayonnaise. Could nuking be an answer?

                          1. re: jayt90
                            b
                            bulavinaka Sep 17, 2008 08:28 AM

                            From what I remember in high school biology, the interior of an egg is sterile. I believe it is the outside of the egg that one has to be concerned about - the picture in my mind of a hen laying an egg is pretty graphic - woah-ooooey!

                            You could probably go online and find methods for pasteurizing the outside of the egg with little affect to the interior - usually some minor cooking to the egg white - little or no curdling of the yolk. I don't know if the product is still available but eggs that were pasteurized and were safe to use raw were available in the markets for a while. I heard complaints about the egg whites being slightly hazy from the pasteurization process so this might have lead to the demise of the product...

                            1. re: bulavinaka
                              e
                              earthygoat Sep 17, 2008 01:16 PM

                              When it comes to raw milk products and raw eggs, one needs to look at how our agricultural systems have changed in the past 60 years or so. Due to changes in feed that the animals get (eg. corn, soy and animal by-products), the intestinal biology of many farm animals has changed drastically. Yes, all cows have e. coli in their intestine, but the deadly strains have only cropped up in the past little while. The conditions chickens are kept under are nothing like what nature intended. When an egg is laid by a happy, outdoor hen, she puts a coating on the shell to protect it from bacteria. When it is laid in a factory setting, there is a lot of contamination, therefore the eggs are washed and sealed artificially, which doesn't always work.

                              The only raw milk and egg products I will consume come from naturally raised animals from healthy environments. Yes, there are bacteria present, but the good bacteria outcompete the bad by a long shot. Whereas, in a pasturized product, if bad bacteria contaminate it, there is nothing to fight them off.

                              1. re: earthygoat
                                maria lorraine Sep 17, 2008 02:28 PM

                                Just want to be be a little more clear about e.coli...

                                E. coli is normally found in the intestines of humans and animals. Most strains of e.coli are harmless.

                                So, it's not a bad thing that most or all cows have e.coli. It's only bad if the animals have an illness-causing strain, and for that we need to identify the strain: O157:H7 or OH111, O128, O103, O55, EHEC, etc.

                                Maria

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  jayt90 Sep 17, 2008 05:43 PM

                                  Outbreaks of e coli O 157:H7 are worrisome, and have caused deaths in the midwest (I can't document that but it is easy to find) and Walkerton, Ontario (2003) when the water supply was contaminated by a herd of prize winning cows, owned by a veterinarian, and the local water crew did not know how to test and control the town water. The study I referred to previously indicates that e coli O 157 is frequent in cows, and that their milk should be pasteurized as a precaution.

                                  1. re: jayt90
                                    maria lorraine Sep 18, 2008 01:14 PM

                                    Jayt90,

                                    Dang it, that study you linked to is very old.

                                    The data range from 1985 to 1999. The LATEST data is from 1999. Data from the last 3-4 years is necessary.

                                    "When read in it's entirety, it is quite alarming. The intro and the conclusion may be enough for many."

                                    The first line of the Summary, to which you refer, reads: "Milk is rarely but occasionally linked to outbreaks of foodborne disease in humans."

                                    "The study I referred to previously indicates that e coli O 157 is frequent in cows, and that their milk should be pasteurized as a precaution."

                                    Less than one percent isn't frequent.

                                    0.9% of milk cows tested positive for O157:H7.
                                    2.8% of milk cows due to be culled within 7 days.
                                    Not in the milk, BTW. These were fecal swab samples.

                                    But again, the data was from the 1996 NAHMS Dairy Survey -- 12 years ago. The preventative steps taken to ward off E.coli O157:H7 since 1996 have skyrocketed.

                                    At this point I am far more concerned about O157 and salmonella coming from fruits and vegetables -- givem the slew of recent outbreaks --than I am coming from raw milk cheeses or eggs.

                                    I do have some newer data, and hope to get through it soon. Happy to read anything current you may unearth.

                                    Maria

                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                      b
                                      bulavinaka Sep 18, 2008 03:40 PM

                                      I don't know if you caught this recent article concerning the need to register all involved in the produce chain based on the findings from the recent salmonella incident and...

                                      http://www.newsday.com/news/nationwor...

                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        jayt90 Sep 19, 2008 07:16 AM

                                        Some more articles, this is a brief google search,"raw milk outbreaks":
                                        1) http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2005/NEW01278.html
                                        2) http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/articles/384/RawMilkOutbreakTable.pdf
                                        3) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5026a3.htm
                                        4) http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/foodsafe/pdf/fs_rawmilk_risk_20080424.pdf
                                        5) http://www.foodpoisonblog.com/2007/11...

                                        1. re: jayt90
                                          maria lorraine Sep 19, 2008 04:56 PM

                                          Hiya,

                                          Thanks for those links to more current data.

                                          Just to be clear:

                                          I'm not at all doubtful that raw milk does become infected with 0157 or campy or listeria (BTW, the last two seem to infect pasteurized milk more often than raw milk) from time to time.

                                          My goal is to find a bigger picture, however.

                                          The incidence of raw milk illness vs. pasteurized milk illness, first. Second, the incidence of a specific illness traced to raw and/or pasteurized milk in comparison to the incidence of that illness in ALL foodstuffs. That percentage, from what I've quickly read so far, is very, very small.

                                          It strikes me as being quite similar to salmonella statistics in my post below. My sense in digging up the data on salmonella in eggs both last year and this year is that eggs have been a bit unfairly maligned.

                                          Yes, there are incidences of salmonella, but certainly not enough for me to not eat a Caesar salad or Salade Lyonnaise or even a smoothie with a raw egg. [Obvious disclaimers about pregnant mothers and the immunocompromised apply.] In fact, I should probably be more concerned about the lettuce in the Caesar than about the egg!

                                          I have a somewhat similar sense about raw milk, but would like to draw a distinction between drinking raw milk and that used to make cheese. I'm a firm believer in the flavor of raw milk cheeses, and the continued right of cheesemakers to make cheese from raw milk. I understand the 60-day rule.

                                          I have a little trouble, personally, with drinking raw milk. I am quite taken by the arguments of raw milk drinkers, who buy raw milk secretively from producers, however drinking it is not a risk I wish to take.

                                          I might add (and I did a lot of research into the biochemistry of cheese four years ago) that pasteurization was mandated by the US government in an era when cleanliness standards were not what they are today in dairies. I've talked to many dairies and creameries that maintain scrupulous cleanliness standards by federal law, and even more stringent state-mandated standards. I am not at all in favor of any proposed guideline or law that would mandate the use of pasteurized milk only in cheese. That would rob the cheese of cheese. I'm also interested in bacterial competition -- that is, the eventual conquest of any harmful raw milk bacteria that may exist by the healthy bacteria and enzymes of cheese, either introduced or not.

                                          Finally, in the articles I've read that you've sent me, and that which I've acquired on my own, I've read numerous examples of persons, becoming sick from drinking raw milk on very small private farms. Obviously, these are farms with no dairy contracts, thus no testing or cleanliness rules. So, it's important (at least to me) to know the origin of the illness, and whether or not it is an established dairy or dairy farm or cheesemaking facility.

                                          Obviously, a complex issue....

                                          Best,
                                          Maria

                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                            jayt90 Sep 19, 2008 09:17 PM

                                            The current outbreak of Listeriosis in Canada has claimed 18 lives since mid August, and it is not over yet. It is being blamed on a cache of bacteria deep inside a high tech slicing machine in a recently built cold cut plant in Toronto. The machine had been cleaned and sterilized daily, and an inspector was on site every day, but it harbored bacteria deep inside, and in quantities strong enough to fell adults in their prime. This is the worst Listeria outbreak since the Ball Park franks incident in Detroit 10 years ago. I mention it because modern production methods up the ante: things can go horribly wrong when a slicing machine handles a dozen brands and many types of product in one day, and distribution goes far beyond the city limits. Modern dairies are just as vulnerable to human or technical errors.

                                            I am interested in finding out more about the role of enzymes in soft cheese, aged less than 60 days. The French cheesemakers had to go to pasteurized milk and there was quite a fuss about it, but that has passed, and few people complain about brie or camembaert or 200 other fresh cheeses from France. Are there nuances in taste that many of us are missing? What is the role of the enzymes in raw milk fresh cheese? If I recall, disease from fresh cheese has not gone up dramatically since pasteurization was mandated for French cheesemakers. Luckily, I can buy raw milk fresh cheese once in awhile from Quebec, but their washed rind cheeses from pasteurized milk seem to be equally complex.

                                            1. re: jayt90
                                              maria lorraine Sep 19, 2008 10:02 PM

                                              "The French cheesemakers had to go to pasteurized milk and there was quite a fuss about it, but that has passed, and few people complain about brie or camembaert or 200 other fresh cheeses from France."

                                              Doesn't this apply only to French cheeses that are exported?

                                              The softer cheese (Camembert, Brie) that are made for export use pasteurized milk, and the raw milk cheeses designed for export are aged 60 days. You can still buy raw milk cheeses all over France while in France, some a mere few days old.

                                              And from what I've read, Quebec allows raw-milk cheeses, or they did as of three weeks ago.

                                2. re: bulavinaka
                                  s
                                  Sinicle Sep 17, 2008 02:23 PM

                                  I try to avoid these scientific/not-scientific discussions on CH much preferring the subjectivity of which is the best peanut butter. However, according to an FDA Bulletin (easily googled) most salmonella contamination today occurs in the hen before the formation of the shell. Certainly poor handling, etc. doesn't help but it is not the main culprit. Likewise, getting the eggs from a good source may minimize but not eliminate the problem.

                                  1. re: Sinicle
                                    b
                                    bulavinaka Sep 17, 2008 03:52 PM

                                    You're right...

                                    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseas...

                                    I guess the validity of facts from my high school biology have been superceded by this new strain of salmonella enteritidis...

                                    Thanks...

                                    1. re: bulavinaka
                                      maria lorraine Sep 17, 2008 05:17 PM

                                      The statistics were interesting:

                                      1 in 10,000 eggs is internally infected with salmonella enteritidis in the Northeastern United States.

                                      Even fewer eggs are infected in other parts of the United States.

                                      External contamination by salmonella is extremely rare.

                                      "In the Northeast, approximately one in 10,000 eggs may be internally contaminated. In other parts of the United States, contaminated eggs appear less common. Only a small number of hens seem to be infected at any given time, and an infected hen can lay many normal eggs while only occasionally laying an egg contaminated with the Salmonella bacterium."

                                      "Stringent procedures for cleaning and inspecting eggs were implemented in the 1970s and have made salmonellosis caused by external fecal contamination of egg shells extremely rare."

                                      [October 13, 2005 statistics.]

                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        jayt90 Sep 17, 2008 05:30 PM

                                        I would rather take my chances, based on those numbers, with runny yolks from a good source rather than wait for an egg company to bombard the product with radiation.

                                        I am still intrigued by the prospect of eliminating bacteria and parasites in fresh fish fillets with irradiation.

                          2. re: maria lorraine
                            maria lorraine Sep 17, 2008 05:29 PM

                            Anyone have statistics on illness from raw milk cheeses?

                            (Credible, recent.)

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              Junie D Sep 17, 2008 06:34 PM

                              According to CDC MMWR Weekly: "From 1998 to May 2005, raw milk or raw milk products have been implicated in 45 foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, accounting for more than 1,000 cases of illness (CDC, unpublished data, 2007)."

                              that is from Escherichia coli 0157:H7 Infections in Children Associated with Raw Milk and Raw Colostrum from Cows --- California, 2006 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrh...

                              That is ALL raw milk products, cheeses presumably being safer (due to salt content, competing bacteria) than milk

                              1. re: Junie D
                                maria lorraine Sep 17, 2008 11:16 PM

                                I read that Junie...thanks.

                                What we need though is the comparison of that 1000 instances of illness from raw milk to the instance of illness for the same time period from *pasteurized" milk. Also, what is the percentage of illness from raw milk comparied to all foodborne illness?

                                I believe I downloaded a bunch of date that has that info, I think.
                                I'll comb through it and see if I can glean the statistics.

                                Best,
                                M.

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  irisav Sep 19, 2008 01:25 AM

                                  I would just like to contribute the fact that milk isn't pasteurized solely for the purpose of limiting food-borne gastro-enteritis, although these are very real risks associated with consuming unpasteurized milk.

                                  Milk is also pasteurized as an effective means of removing (amongst other species) bacteria associated with causing tuberculosis in humans - this includes both mycobacterium bovis and mycobacterium tuberculosis.

                                  Perhaps the risks associated with contraction of TB and raw milk are relatively small but when this risk is borne by a large population (hypothetically lets say 2.5% across a population of 3 billion) suddenly 75 million people have contracted TB from consuming raw milk. Given that TB has a clinical impact on approximately 10% of all those infected, 7.5 million of this population will be morbidly affected resulting in death for many. The morbidity and mortality rates increase astronomically for people with HIV/AIDS. Indeed TB/AIDS is often referred to as the 1-2 combo resulting in death in these populations.

                                  Given also the situation we are faced with increasingly resistant forms of m. tuberculosis to the conventional antibiotic regime (which involves four separate antibiotics for two months followed by four months on two of the original four antibiotics) it becomes a risk profile (particularly in association with e.coli, listeria, salmonella etc) that a public health agency cannot take for the sake of taste.

                    2. t
                      tarteaucitron Sep 14, 2008 09:31 PM

                      Welcome to the raw food (good bacteria) camp! I'm somewhat proud to say I have a surprisingly similar food preference as yours. In fact, I've pretty much had what you had within the last few weeks, except for the stir-fry, pre-made salad (never for me, at least if I have to buy them) and the hour-old latte. On the other hand, I regularly have day-old tea lattes, and I'd rather eat under-cooked eggs and sausage and other meats, for fear of over-cooking them and from being too lazy returning them back to the pot or grill. I also regularly even store cheese, mostly unpasteurized, at room temperature, simply because I'm quite immobile these days.

                      About the "horror stories" on the raw cheeses. The raw cheeses I could find are mostly from France or from the artesan cheesemakers in Quebec, and from my simplistic point of view, their standards should be at least as good, if not better, than the cheese factories elsewhere. If and when mold appears, I simply cut of that part and continue eating away.

                      For the record, my digestive system is in perfect health, and I never had ANY food poisoning, short of two times, both of which I was quite certain was from oysters. More bacteria, more flavour, and more training on the stomach.

                      1. bigmackdaddy Sep 14, 2008 09:07 AM

                        My opinion is the whole raw food danger thing is nonsense.
                        I've gotten sick from more cooked food than raw except for the obvious piece of rotten sushi which I ignored. Raw cheese, honey, fruit juice and so on is delicious, but like any food, raw or cooked, must be prepared right. Sometimes your system may have a reaction to raw food. I once put a pound of asparagus in a juicer and I felt it for the next day. After that no problemo. I guess with raw flesh you should find out where it's from before you eat. You probably don't want to eat under cooked meat of any kind if purchased from a hot stall like you see in Chinatown for example.

                        1. Flofy Sep 14, 2008 07:59 AM

                          I don't think I've ever had raw milk cheese, and I love cheese. Where would I find it, are there any brands to look for? Oh and sometimes you just get sick, but I wouldn't put it past sausage to get ya.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Flofy
                            b
                            bulavinaka Sep 14, 2008 08:59 AM

                            I'm in LA where there are what I consider to be cheese "boutiques," or stores whose inventories are pretty much composed of cheese, charcuterie, breads, maybe some accessories, and wine. Places like this should carry raw milk cheese. If you have a Whole Foods in your area, they're usually a good place to check as well. I can't vouch for their access to raw milk cheese but for a chain, they do carry a great selection of harder to find cheeses, particularly from places like Europe. Local gourmet stores are obviously a great place to check as well.

                            If none of these are available, you can also go online. I mentioned a place that I visited - Cow Girl Creamery - they have a website and you can purchase raw milk cheeses through them. It's kinda pricey but I truly enjoyed their selections. I would guess that you could also call and speak with someone to indicate your tastes in cheeses so they might be able to taylor your order. Good luck!

                            http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/

                            1. re: bulavinaka
                              Melanie Wong Sep 18, 2008 11:18 AM

                              The raw milk cheeses, both domestic and imported, that Cowgirl sells are all aged 60 days or more.

                            2. re: Flofy
                              Melanie Wong Sep 15, 2008 06:29 PM

                              Never had Parmigiano reggiano? Roquefort? These and many other controlled appellation cheeses from France and Italy are raw milk or that cannot bear that name.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                Flofy Sep 17, 2008 07:53 AM

                                I did not know that. So I guess I have. Thank you. I've never really studied cheeses, but love to learn about them. In recent years I've experimented way more. And I never don't have fresh Parmigiano reggiano in the fridge. In summer I grow basil and tomatoes, so it's handy for a quick snack.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  k
                                  kmcarr Sep 17, 2008 01:46 PM

                                  While true that these cheeses (parm, roq) are made from unpasteurized milk they are then subjected to prolonged aging prior to consumption. Once they have been aged for a certain period of time (to assure that they are not/no longer harboring any harmful bacteria) they may then be legally imported and sold in the US. With these cheeses the risk of contracting a food borne illness is no greater than with pasteurized milk cheese.

                                  The OP was specifically talking about illegal raw milk cheeses, that is young cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. But "illegal" also depends on where you live. While the FDA prohibits interstate transport of raw milk products aged less than 60 days, each state may develop its own regulations for the production and sale of raw dairy.

                              2. jayt90 Sep 13, 2008 12:30 PM

                                Fruit salad seems likely, and you may have developed some immunity from the bout.

                                1. b
                                  bulavinaka Sep 13, 2008 12:14 PM

                                  Your scenario qualified you as a daredevil! On the raw milk cheese issue... I'm no expert but recently visited Cow Girl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, CA. Trying many samples of raw milk cheeses from the US as well as Europe with no ill side affects, I asked the lady helping me what the concerns by the USDA were about raw milk cheese? Her response was that although minor, the bacteria concern was legitimate as no one can guarantee a perfectly safe supply of raw milk from source to curd. She said that in cheesemaking, the bacterias that form, both good and bad, will battle it out for the first 60 days, upon which, if the cheesemaking was performed in a proper manner in a hygenic location, the good bacteria overwhelm the bad and pretty much eat/eliminate the boogies within that 60-day window. Once raw milk cheese has aged for at least 60 days, it can be allowed to enter the food stream for consumption. Again, this is my simplistic version of what the cheesemonger explained to me.

                                  As to the mold issue, I've always been told that mold growing on cheese is normally not a concern. The mold spores typically already exist in and on the body of the cheese and should be scraped away as it appears. Obviously the further you let it grow, the more it will affect the taste and quality of the cheese, to the point where it is just not worth eating. Check out this short ChowTip video...

                                  http://www.chow.com/stories/11225

                                  Based on what you listed, I find store-prepared fruit salad to often be the culprit. I know of quite a few victims (me included) who have figured fruit salad to be the source - I don't touch fruit salad from an unknown source anymore. The amount of preparation that involves a lot of contact with various outer surfaces of fruits and creating more surface area (by slicing, cutting, dicing) with knives, counters, boards, bowls, etc. that then comes in to more surface contact increases its probability.

                                  Another strong possibility is the sausage. Again, the increased surface area of ground meat combined with a (most likely) commercial machine that is grinding a lot of meat scraps is a bacteria scenario. Freezing probably put any potential bugs in hibernation - you are supposed to keep ground meats of any kind as cold as possible until you use them to retard bacterial growth and oxidation. Undercooking the sausage might have awaken the bacteria?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bulavinaka
                                    t
                                    tarteaucitron Sep 14, 2008 09:41 PM

                                    And I second the reasoning. I have read too many stories about fruit cutting sweat shops that make me not wanting to eat that stuff ever again.

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