Is communication of the risks associated with consuming ‘raw’ milk (and likelihood of contracting a food-borne illness) a key factor in the debate around ‘raw’ milk? Epidemiological surveillance of outbreak associated and non-outbreak associated food-borne illness rates and the calculated risks involved in consuming ‘raw’ milk, along with simple facts that ‘raw’ milk can contain pathogenic bacteria are used to discourage citizens from consuming ‘raw’ milk. Communication from government and public health agencies state clearly (and in lay language) that ‘raw’ milk is dangerous and tells citizens not to consume it. ‘Raw’ milk advocates put forward arguments disputing epidemiological figures and a perception that government agencies are exaggerating the risks of consuming ‘raw’ milk. Two clear ‘sides’ does not make it easier for consumers when choosing to consume ‘raw’ milk.
Contemplating effective risk communication, should public health agencies be communicating clearly the relative risks to individuals of consuming ‘raw’ milk? This being the risk an individual citizen has of contracting a food-borne infection from consuming ‘raw’ milk. Communicated in a way that an average member of the public can understand (percentages, ratios).
If risks are communicated in terms that the average person can understand this could arm citizens with enough information to make their own choice. And such information could assist those consumers who are already consuming or thinking of purchasing and consuming ‘raw’ milk. There are people out there consuming ‘raw’ milk and shouldn’t these consumers feel more informed about the choices they make?