Raw Milk Advocates Press Challenge to Soy Protein Heart Health Claim; CDC Scientists Report Increase in Illnesses Associated with Raw Milk

December 21, 2014

By Ricardo Carvajal

The Weston A. Price Foundation sued FDA to compel a response to the Foundation’s 2008 citizen petition (Docket No. FDA-2008-P-0452) asking FDA to revoke its regulation authorizing heart health claims for soy protein, which the Foundation claims is “not soy in its natural form.”  The complaint alleges that “[t]he totality of scientific research shows that the benefits of consuming soy protein are putative and unproven,” and that soy protein actually poses certain risks to health.  Thus, FDA’s regulation purportedly “placed consumers at risk because it helped establish the image of soy protein as heart healthy and contributed to an increase in consumption of soy protein in the United States.” 

The complaint describes the Foundation as “dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research, and activism,” and as supportive of “a number of movements that contribute to this objective including accurate nutrition instruction, organic and biodynamic farming, pasture-feeding of livestock, community-supported farms, honest and informative labeling, prepared parenting and nurturing therapies.”  The Foundation has also been a staunch advocate www.realmilk.com for increased availability and consumption of raw (nonpasteurized) milk, which the Foundation claims is “safe and healthy” when “produced under sanitary and healthy conditions.”

Coincidentally, in a study published in CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, CDC scientists reported an increase in reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with consumption of raw milk from 2007-2012.  The annual number of outbreaks increased both within that 6 year period, and in comparison to the annual number of outbreaks reported during 1993-2006.  During the 2007-2012 period, there were a total of 81 outbreaks in 26 states, resulting in 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations.  Of the 78 outbreaks for which the age of patients was available, 59% involved at least 1 patient under 5 years of age. 

The authors note that the increase in outbreaks “was concurrent with a decline in the number of states in which the sale of nonpasteurized milk was illegal, from 28 in 2004 to 20 in 2011, and with an increase in the number of states allowing cow-share programs (from 5 in 2004 to 10 in 2008)” (citations omitted).  The authors therefore conclude that “[t]he decision to legalize the sale of nonpasteurized milk or allow limited access through cow-share programs may facilitate consumer access to nonpasteurized milk,” and that “[l]egalization of the sale of nonpasteurized milk in additional states would probably lead to more outbreaks and illnesses.”  Further, the authors recommend that regulators enforce existing restrictions on the distribution of raw milk.  Although published in CDC’s journal, the study bears a disclaimer stating that the opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of CDC.