No food is zero risk; raw dairy foods riskier than pasteurized

“These products carry an increased risk for foodborne illness. For those who value avoiding foodborne illness, that’s good information to keep in mind.”

That’s what I told Korin Miller of Self today when she called about Maytag’s (the food company, not the appliance company) recall of blue cheese.756374263_tp

I’m one of the folks who value avoiding foodborne illness.

Whole Foods recently announced that it is issuing a nationwide recall of Maytag Raw Milk Blue Cheese due to concerns that it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

“There’s a risk with foods in general,” says Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant (associate -ben) professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. “There’s an increased risk with raw dairy products.”

How much of a risk are we talking about? A 2012 CDC study that analyzed foodborne illness outbreaks tied to dairy from 1993 to 2006 found that 73 of the 121 outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized products. Of those outbreaks tied to unpasteurized products, there were 1,571 cases of foodborne illness, 202 hospitalizations, and two deaths.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.