Paratuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
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Paratuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
Off the Shelf
Despite its shortcomings, the USDA study continues to be cited and the rest of the scientific literature ignored by the government and the agricultural press. Hoard's Dairyman, for example, cited the USDA study and concluded that "pasteurization destroys this dangerous disease."100 The year after the USDA study was published, assertions such as this one were conclusively proven to be wrong.
The only way to demonstrate for sure that live paraTB bacteria survive pasteurization is to culture a colony of living paratuberculosis bacteria from retail pasteurized milk off the grocery shelf. In 1998, that is just what researchers did. Choosing Ireland, which has the highest per capita milk consumption in the European Union, investigators went to 16 retail outlets and got 31 cartons of milk which were pasteurized at commercial dairies large and small. Six grew out live paraTB, 19% -- almost 1 in 5.65 This caused a national food scare with daily front page headlines, not a word of which crossed the Atlantic.
In an editorial entitled "Media and Censorship," the editor-in-chief of the Cleveland Free Times wrote: "The dairy lobby is notoriously powerful inside the Washington DC beltway. And a tax on dairy farmers helps the dairy industry spread its advertising dollars around generously (most notably the 'Got Milk?' ad campaign), to the point where the wholesomeness of milk goes virtually unquestioned in the media. How else can it be explained that the possible link between a bacterium in milk and Crohn's disease is virtually unknown in the United States, despite front-page coverage in England and other places around the world?"
When the results of the Irish study were released, crisis management specialists called the ramifications "enormous," "horrific." Dairy industry experts described it as a "significant blow to the industry," "accelerating the long-term decline of milk," and noting "It's not a market that can just bounce back." Dairy industry leaders reacted angrily to the suggestion that pasteurization was inadequate. The British National Dairy Council's "Information Officer," said she wished the investigators had contacted the industry before publishing their scientific findings.
Responding to public pressures, the British government initiated a nationwide thousand-sample survey of retail pasteurized milk. The announcement splashed headlines all over Europe, but there was still no word in the American press. The preliminary findings of the British government's survey were released in April 2000. Three percent]92] -- 3 out of every one hundred cartons of milk off the shelves -- grew out live paratuberculosis bacteria.[97,159] Based on the detection threshold of these tests, each quart had to contain at least about a million paraTB germs to come up positive.
A year and a half earlier, after the announcement that milk was contaminated by at least paraTB DNA, the three British supermarket giants -- Tesco, Sainsbury, and Safeway -- announced that milk pasteurization time would be increased from 15 seconds to 25 seconds, to reassure the public that their products were safe. The finding of live paratuberculosis bacteria in retail milk over a year later has fueled the skepticism that the 10 second change would make any difference. The change was not based on science -- in fact, there is a suggestion that some paraTB can survive pasteurization temperatures for 9 minutes or longer.
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