The tragic listeria incident two months ago at Vulto Creamery, which makes some of the country’s best unpasteurized cheese, highlighted the potential peril of eating raw cheese. The CDC linked two deaths to Vulto’s contaminated products, and now researchers at the agency have published a study explaining that an overwhelming majority of the dairy industry’s food-borne illnesses come from raw milk and cheeses.
The report comes out swinging: “The growing popularity of unpasteurized milk in the United States raises public health concerns,” it says, before pointing out that raw milk and cheese were responsible for 96 percent of reported illnesses caused by contaminated dairy products from 2009 to 2014. Raw-dairy products also keep getting more popular, with fewer regulations in place, so the report adds that illnesses are likewise on track to “increase steadily.”
Put another way, leafy greens cause more food-borne illnesses overall, but raw milk puts almost three times more people in the hospital, qualifying it, in the eyes of the CDC, as one of the most dangerous food products available — noting that unpasteurized products are a breeding ground for a laundry list of bacteria that can potentially cause conditions like tuberculosis, scarlet fever, salmonella, campylobacter, staph, E. coli, and yersinia (which is technically the genus for the plague). Maybe plastic-wrapped slices of American cheese aren’t so bad after all.