Some more reader feedback regarding raw milk and E. coli. From Adrian:
Interesting reading on the whole raw milk debate. The feedback you posted (Raw Milk Risks) is particularly noteworthy. E. coli is a bacterium which inhabits the intestines of mammals. The fact that there's E. coli in (some) raw milk is indicative of unsanitary milking practices rather than an innate problem with raw milk. To put it bluntly, there's shit in the milk.
Gross, but possibly true. But it's important to understand that "E. coli" is not one thing. Nina Planck explains the difference between various strains of E. coli in this New York Times article Leafy Green Sewage. E. coli O157:H7 is the bacterium that makes you sick and it loves an acidic environment. Planck writes "O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms."
So this could explain the current E. coli spinach outbreak. It also could explain how the four California children who drank raw milk products have been infected with E. coli. But reader Susan Q had brucellosis, possibly from raw butter or raw cheese. Even if sanitary milking practices are followed, there are still risks.
Adrian also says:
Furthermore, it's really only the soft raw-milk cheeses that you need to watch out for, hence the FDA's requirement that raw-milk cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days. Incidentally, there's some research in Europe which suggests that the majority of cheese-related food poisoning incidents are linked to unsanitary practices in large-scale, pastuerised milk cheese production. This is an argument that has been used in the UK in recent years by artisanal cheese producers under pressure from the government to stop using raw milk.
As cheese ages, it loses moisture. Hard, aged cheese have a lower pH and are not as favorable for bacteria growth. That's why aged raw milk cheeses are permitted in the United States. It seems like raw milk — whatever its form — has risks. That's why it's important you know where it's coming from and the conditions under which it's produced if you choose to ingest it. The same could be said for spinach, and meat, and eggs, and nearly everything else you eat.