A two year old and four children became ill after drinking unpasteurised milk labelled as for “cosmetic use only.”
Unpasteurised cow’s milk is banned for human consumption, but since the milk is categorised as a “cosmetic” product, The Department of Health is unable to recall them.
Several brands of the unpasteurised milk being sold in Victorian health food stores are responsible for the gastroenteritis outbreak, The Herald Sun reports.
A Mornington Peninsula child, 3, died during the past month after drinking Mountain View Organic Bath Milk. The case has been forwarded to the State Coroner.
Another four children aged one to four, from Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula, has recovered from serious illnesses after drinking other brands of unpasteurised milk.
An investigation linked all the cases to raw milk. The Health Department will today issue a major health warning about the products.
The packaging for the unpasteurised milk is quite similar to regular milk, and is often sold in fridges next to drinks, but they carry the disclaimer “cosmetic use only”.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has issued a warning about the dangers of drinking raw cow’s milk and written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Consumer Affairs Victoria asking for it to address the matter.
“If this was a food it is something we would recall.
“The sale of unpasteurised milk for human consumption is illegal in Victoria. However, all five cases drank unpasteurised milk sold as ‘bath’ or ‘cosmetic’ milk,” Lester said.
“There are people who are drinking it and feeding it to their family knowing it is not for human consumption.
“It is part of the movement that (believes) if something is raw and natural it must be good. But … no matter how carefully it is produced, raw milk can contain harmful bacteria and parasites,” she said.
“There have been three cases of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and two cases of cryptosporidiosis.
“HUS is a rare but serious condition caused by bacteria that affects the kidneys and the bloodstream. Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection that commonly presents as gastroenteritis with watery diarrhoea.
“Unpasteurised milk increases the risk of contracting gastrointestinal illness because it can contain pathogens such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes.
“Since the 1940s it has been compulsory to pasteurise cow’s milk in Australia. Milk is heated for a very short period of time effectively destroying any disease-causing bacteria which may be present in raw milk.
“Everyone is vulnerable to illness caused by the pathogens present in raw milk, but the risks are even greater for young children and for the elderly, those with underlying health problems, immunocompromised or pregnant,” Lester said.
No matter what precautions are taken by dairy farmers during milking, there can be no guarantee that the milk will be free from harmful bacteria.