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Australian child dies of raw milk

Updated: 2014-12-11 09:00

MELBOURNE - One toddler from Melbourne, Australia, has died and another four children are seriously ill after drinking raw, unpasteurized milk labelled as a cosmetic product.

Local health authorities again warned of the dangers of drinking raw cow's milk on Thursday after the three-year-old's death was referred to the State Coroner.

Three of the young children contracted a rare condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome, caused by toxic levels of E. coli bacteria in the raw cow's milk.

Raw milk and its products have been illegal for sale in Australia since the 1940s, but this can be circumvented by selling them as cosmetic products such as "organic bath milk".

Dr Rosemary Lester, Victoria's chief health officer, said the bacteria in raw milk can affect the kidneys and the bloodstream and cause watery diarrhoea.

"Only a small number of these pathogens are needed to cause illness," Dr Lester said in a press release on Thursday.

"Milk is heated for a very short period of time effectively destroying any disease-causing bacteria which may be present in raw milk."

"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, making pasteurization essential."

The head of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association echoed the warnings of Dr Lester and told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) there was no reason raw milk should be on the market.

"Unfortunately, there's no good scientific reason to drink it, so you can only wonder at some of the reasons (people drink it)," Dr Tony Bartone told the ABC.

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