Iowa Public Health Association 

Impact of Milk Pasteurization on Public Health

12 Dec 2018 9:00 AM | Anonymous

Impact of Milk Pasteurization on Public Health

By: Dr. Russell Currier

After chlorination of water, milk pasteurization has probably had the greatest impact on the public’s health especially for infants and children.  One of the common waterborne diseases was typhoid fever and a number of pre-pasteurization era disease milk-borne outbreaks also included typhoid fever.  This occurred even after pasteurization technology was available to dairies.  Two other common human contaminants of milk were streptococcal infections and diphtheria both facilitated by hand milking.  Dairies were reluctant even opposed to install pasteurization for market milk based on costs; most physicians influenced by then common rickets and scurvy, opposed pasteurization as perceived to reduce its nutrient content.

Russell Currier, retired Iowa State Public Health Veterinarian and John Widness, retired University of Iowa Neonatalogist, have studied this history and published a review paper, entitled A Brief History of Milk Hygiene and Its Impact on Infant Mortality from 1875 to 1925 and Implication for Today: A Review, in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol 81, No 10, 2018, Pages 1713-1722.  This review includes detail on human as well as bovine diseases transmitted through milk.  It concludes with an epilogue section detailing the importance of breast feeding infants as well as current pathogens associated with unpasteurized milk e.g. E. coli O157, campylobacter, and salmonella. 

For a PDF reprint of this paper please contact Dr. Currier at

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