Dr. Catharina Berge

Anna Catharina Berge is a Swedish veterinarian and epidemiologist with expertise in food animal production from farm to fork. Dr Berge’s experience ranges from working directly in animal husbandry, large animal practice, veterinary animal and public health legislation, public health and scientific research. Thereafter she spent 10 years in the United States performing research in dairy production on zoonotic bacteria such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and antimicrobial resistance, while completing a dual masters in preventive veterinary medicine and a PhD in Comparative Pathology. Today she lives in Belgium and run her own consultancy business working internationally on several continents. Dr Berge is an academic advisor at the University of Ghent in the Epidemiology Unit where she is involved in research on biosecurity, Salmonella control and reduction of antimicrobial use.

Dr Berge is furthermore an expert in raw milk and raw milk products. Her interest in raw milk was triggered by her own allergies to pasteurized milk and milk products. Dr Berge has thereby used her competence in animal husbandry combined with food safety to develop holistic systems for farmers that are involved in raw milk production. Dr Berge now actively work to assist raw milk producers to reduce risks associated with raw milk and products thereof using a holistic approach integrating all components of dairy farming from feed to food. Her extensive knowledge of all types of dairy systems, combined with epidemiological, microbiological, veterinary and public health expertise gives her unique competence to guide farmers in their work to create safe and hygienic raw milk production systems.

Lecture title

What are the risks of consuming raw milk products and how do they compare to other food commodities?

Lecture summary

Raw milk has shown to be beneficial for health and welfare and cultural heritage for many people. However, public health scientists, doctors and veterinarians are constantly warning consumers of the health risks of raw milk and raw milk products. Raw milk can present a risk for infectious zoonotic diseases just like any other raw food. Therefore, it is important to understand the true risks of raw milk and an understanding of the practices or factors that make raw milk potentially hazardous can help us develop safe production practices. Many raw milk producers have very safe methods of production involving on farm risk management programs including biosecurity, animal health, milk hygiene and distribution. The risks of raw milk have not been properly quantified, the safe production systems have been ignored, and unfortunately raw milk risks are subject to a lot of reporting and publication bias. In order to properly quantify and qualify the risk of a food commodity a quantitative microbial risk assessment needs to be performed. EFSA evaluated the risks related to raw milk and products thereof in 2014 and concluded that a lot of data and information was missing to make a good risk quantification.  In the context of raw milk risk quantification, we furthermore need to take into considerations the benefits of raw milk, so as to enable safe production systems in all EU countries that produce safe raw milk and products for consumers.

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