State health officials in West Virginia are investigating an illness outbreak that could be linked to drinking raw milk. This comes just days after a bill allowing West Virginians to drink raw milk was passed, and some of the lawmakers responsible for getting the bill passed, drank raw milk in celebration and later became ill.
An article explains that a delegate brought the raw milk into the lawmaker’s office where several individuals drank together. Since then, many have gotten sick. While some are arguing this is just a coincidence and that a stomach bug has been going around, the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has begun their investigation.
Raw milk is deemed dangerous as it has not been pasteurized, creating a much higher chance of it being contaminated with dangerous bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. Pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis.
In addition, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products. However, supporters say, raw milk has a higher nutritional content and is more ethical. Furthermore, some argue drinking raw milk can cure various ailments including allergies and eczema, although neither of these have been scientifically proven.
The selling of raw milk is illegal in 18 states and several other states have various laws that prevent raw milk from legally getting in the hands of consumers. The CDC warns that drinking raw milk can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain along with other flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache.
One lawmaker involved in this case said in the article he believes there should not be a law prohibiting people from drinking raw milk if that is their choice, and compared it to eating raw oysters. However, a spokesperson for West Virginia’s governor Earl Ray Toblin, said it will now be up to the DHHR to determine what is responsible for causing the illnesses in this case.
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