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Food Safety News

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Trying to Decide About Raw Milk?

“Back to nature”– that’s what many Americans are trying to do with the foods that they buy and eat. They are shopping at farmers’ markets, picking organic foods at their grocery stores, participating in food cooperatives (or co-ops), and some are even growing their own food.  Many people are trying to eat foods that are produced with minimal processing.

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However, milk and products made from milk (like cheese, ice cream, and yogurt) are foods that, when consumed raw, pose severe health risks. Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization, which can be done by heating the milk briefly (for example heating it to  161°F for about 20 seconds), to kill disease-causing germs (e.g., Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Campylobacter) that can be found in raw milk. 

Before the invention and acceptance of pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses.  These illnesses killed many people each year, especially young children.  In the 1900s many mothers recognized this risk and would boil milk (bringing it to a temperature of 212°F) before giving it to their infants and young children. 

Many studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk – pasteurized milk is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Heat slightly affects a few of the vitamins found in milk–  thiamine, vitamin B12, and vitamin C– but milk is only a minor source of these vitamins.    

This website provides information for people who want to know about:

– Important things to consider if you are trying to decide whether you and your family want to try raw milk and milk products

– Diseases caused by raw milk and milk products

– Outbreaks of foodborne illnesses involving raw milk and raw milk products

Trying to Decide About Raw Milk?

Developing a healthy lifestyle is a process with many decisions and steps.  One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet.  Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful germs.  Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It’s important to understand the risks of drinking raw milk, especially because you may be hearing claims about the supposed “benefits” of raw milk.

 

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Maybe you want to eat less processed food, or maybe you’ve heard that raw milk contains more of certain nutrients than pasteurized milk. Perhaps you’ve heard that raw milk can even prevent or solve various health problems.  For some people, buying raw milk is one way they try to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture.

It is important to know that milk can be a very efficient home for bacteria and other germs. When milk is pasteurized, some bacteria remain in it, but the disease-causing ones are killed. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill disease-causing germs. Harmful germs usually don’t change the look, taste, or smell of milk, so only when milk has been pasteurized can you be confident that these germs are not present.  To ensure that milk is safe, processors rapidly cool it after pasteurization, practice sanitary handling, and store milk in clean, closed containers at 45 degrees F or below.

You can’t look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink. Make the best decision for the health of your family. If you want to keep milk in your family’s diet, protect them by not giving them raw milk.  Even healthy adults can get sick from drinking raw milk.  If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.

Meet three women whose choice of raw milk for themselves or their loved ones had life-long consequences. Each of the women or their loved ones were part of an outbreak caused by raw milk.

More information about raw milk can be found on the Raw Milk Questions and Answers page.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photos.

© Food Safety News
  • Antonio

    Hi there
    I have been drinking raw milk for 30 years and never had any health problems.
    The people who have been pushing for pasteurized milk are the one’s that would have you believe it’s safer to pasteurize. This is because a milk producer that pasteurizes can expect less health inspections to begin with, and as transporting cow dung away from the cows is expensive for such producers it’s just great to have the poor animals virtually eating with their dung on both sides and in most cases eating their own dung. Enter pasteurization and antibiotics albeit not necessary in a clean environment routinely inspected and where the milk is sampled for salmonella and all pathogens REGULARLY.
    Most of the outbreaks, the pasteurization fans forget to mention are from pasteurized milk and not raw milk from clean inspected and routinely sampled milk co op’s. Such is and was the case in America and I will not bore you with the stats it’s quite a list.
    The pasteurized milk is stripped of the enzymes which actually guard against pathogens and enzymes that break down the lactose so that your body can better utilise the milk.
    Pasteurization alters the milk at a molecular level making its utilization by our bodies very difficult and whats more artificial vitamins are added to the processed and pasteurized milk which are actually toxic to the body.
    Then we have homogenization a way in which they can take the milk that was centrefuged to get rid of the puss present in the milk from infections and anibiotics caused by cows forced to eat corn and feed, a diet not natural for a cow and make it kind of look nice and smooth again on the surface so to speak.
    Unfortunately the fat molecules are made smaller with homogenization so that they enter the blood stream and are not absorbed which is not what you like for your heart guaranteed.
    Raw grass fed milk contains Lauric acid amongst other benefits which is believed to have many benefits.
    So good people when you listen to the pasteurization fans who love to scare you with the germ stories etc remember also everything else that will be in the pasteurized milk how its been deodorized, and treated to get rid of puss from cows udders that become infected due to incorrect food source, and all the things they have to do to the milk for ahem “your safety”. Cows eat grass in nature pasteurization covers up for a lot of what is done to the milk for high yield productions sake and on top of that pasteurization does NOT guarantee no contamination, ecoli and salmonella in fact have been found in pasteurized products and dairy.
    So where is the catch? Well if you source a dairy that has it’s milk sampled is routinely inspected I suggest buying that milk instead of it’s cosmetic pasteurized, homogenized, deodorized and VERY VERY distant cousin.
    Take Care folks.

  • mitch

    This site is PR, paid for by the food industry, take it with a huge grain of salt.

  • Alan

    There were many problems in hygiene during the times the diseases you mentioned were prevalent. The way the milk was produced was in horrible urban farms that were eventually banned. Refrigeration was not common. Water sources were often contaminated and manure was common in the streets from horse transportation. As usual the truth is not so easily simplified by blaming one cause.
    I’ve been drinking raw milk for four years. Have had no flu or colds in the time and no ill side effects. Organicpastures.com sells millions of dollars of raw milk products in California and nobody is getting sick. They tried to “link” some cases to the dairy but never found the bacteria in his products or on the farm. If that many people can drink raw milk and not get sick, just how risky is it?
    Anyone drinking raw milk should know the risks and make their own decision. I’ll never go back to pasteurized and especially not ultra pasteurized milk.
    The dairy industry had better stop talking about how filthy and dangerous milk is. I wouldn’t want to drink disease carrying milk, cooked or not.

  • Julie

    I concur with the previous post. America’s industrialization in the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries led to a mass migration of people to the cities in our country. Dairies sprung up in cities next to distilleries, who unloaded their grain mash into the cows at the dairies — cheap feed for the dairy pocketbook, but unhealthy fuel for the cows. Many workers from the distilleries worked also at the dairies, and there were no sanitary guidelines in place.
    In the end, workers dirty from the distilleries and elsewhere saddled up to milk unhealthy cows, resulting in the unclean milk that caused the outbreaks the author mentions above. In the country, where small farmers continued to milk healthy pasture-raised cows, there were no such outbreaks.
    I recently learned that my family drank milk from their own cows up until the late 70s, when the milk distributors finally owned the midwest production, too.
    I am a former silicon valley start-up exec who now milks two Jerseys for my family and our friends; after learning the whole story of the reasons behind pasteurization and tasting fresh milk, I will never go back to the stuff on the shelf.
    cheers.

  • Frank

    I agree with Antonio.
    I and my family have gotten sick and cannot tolerate pasteurized milk, but raw milk we do not have a problem and haven’t got sick from them.
    Food Safety News is factually incorrect by saying that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk. Long ago it has been proven that pasteurization changes the nutritional value of milk – If you read Pottenger’s Cat (http://www.naturalbirthandbabycare.com/pottengers-cats.html) back in 1930′s you’ll see how raw milk is very different than pasteurized milk.
    It’s a shame that Food Safety news spend most of your time attacking raw milk instead of researching and understanding the history and science of it and looking at it objectively.

  • mrothschild

    Hi “Mitch”: You are entitled to your opinion, and your grain of salt, but this site is paid for by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that sues the food industry on behalf of clients injured by contaminated food. And believe me, once you’ve seen how devastating injuries caused by unpasteurized milk products can be, you wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer them. But thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. — Mary Rothschild

  • Mary Rothschild

    Hi “Mitch”: You are entitled to your opinion, and your grain of salt, but this site is paid for by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that sues the food industry on behalf of clients injured by contaminated food. And believe me, once you’ve seen how devastating injuries caused by unpasteurized milk products can be, you wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer them. But thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. — Mary Rothschild

  • Jennifer

    “Most of the outbreaks, the pasteurization fans forget to mention are from pasteurized milk and not raw milk from clean inspected and routinely sampled milk co op’s.”
    Check your facts because this is completely wrong. You have the choice to drink raw milk but be educated about the risk you are consuming. Raw milk and raw milk products are constantly recalled due to food borne pathogens. Consuming raw milk is equivalent to licking a toilet seat. You may or may not get sick. Without a step to kill the microbes in the milk there is no way to guarantee you will not get sick. You have had 30 years of luck…and I’m sure sprinkled with unexplained diarrhea but dare not blame it on the precious raw milk.
    It’s sad that the further we advance with safer foods the more ignorant we become with these delusional fears of some missing enzyme. If pasteurized milk is missing some of it’s nutritional content, I’ll take my chance verses some nasty case of explosive diarrhea or worse death.
    Enjoy your raw milk saturated with bacteria but don’t try to advocate to others that pasteurization is toxic and the end of humanity. I also cook my chicken. Is that next on the kill list since it too alters the properties of my food? Suggesting that a cooking process (which is what pasteurization is) is toxic is ludicrous. 30 years of raw milk consumption may not have killed you but I would beg to differ concerning your brain cells.

  • Jim Schmidt

    A lot of misinformed commenters. I can only assume they are with the raw milk lobby. Perhaps if they are willing to put a tax on raw milk sales to pay for the cost that taxpayers will have to pay for all the foodborne illness investigations I and my co-workers will be undertaking and another tax to pay for the hospitalization of children who do not have a choice in drinking raw milk? The general public should not have to pay for your informed choice of drinking something that is known to cause disease when there is a very acceptable alternative.

    • http://twitter.com/SelkieSiun SelkieSiun

       Oh no! Heaven forbid the FDA actually get off their asses and actually do their job instead of having the food companies send in their tests and regulations for them. Oh, and raw milk lobby? Are you kidding me? When the rest of the world is perfectly fine and healthy from drinking raw milk you think the good old U-S-of-A need to be the one problem child that says everyone else is doing it wrong? Then again, I guess we are used to that.

  • Sarah Sanders

    Wow, I agree w/ Jim abt misinformed commenters – including you, Jim!
    I was raised on raw milk & now, have my own farm w/ my own dairy animals whose milk I also drink & use raw. The only health problems I had were during the years I was NOT able to acquire fresh, naturally-raised food right off the farm – including dairy products – & had developed a myriad of maladies, common to those who have no choice but to consume what they can get at the area grocery stores.
    I’m now 43 &, since moving to this farm 11ish years ago & venturing into raising as much of my own food as I can, as naturally as I can, have mysteriously gotten rid of all of those chronic health issues I was plagued with (& ALL of the meds I was prescribed thereof). . . as has my husband. (whose blood pressure, triglycerides, etc. were worrisomely high – & had been for YEARS – but are now actually lower than what’s “recommended”.)
    Yep. That raw dairy certainly IS some nasty, dirty, bad, baddd stuff to be avoided at all costs.
    I feel sorry for the people who only have 2nd-hand information upon which to develop their “educated opinions”. &, must admit, find it irritating when someone who doesn’t even have first-hand experience w/ dairy farming & raw/home dairying feels it’s perfectly acceptable to blather their “educated opinion” to the entire world, like it’s gospel.
    Sad, sad thing the negative effect this “mainstream media” has on our society. . .

  • Doc Mudd

    Somehow the personal testimonials were more entertaining when they were about alien abductions and Elvis sightings.
    The Weston A. Price Foundation has changed all that, though.
    Sometimes I miss the good old days of independent storytellers who wore homemade tin foil hats. Those were the days, my friend, those were the days.

  • Cassandra

    I have been drinking raw milk on and off for 30 years. Not once have I ever gotten sick from it, even the raw milk that was produced before the dictatorial local and federal governments imposed stiff regulations on all the farmers as an excuse to remove raw milk from the food market. Countless millions of pasteurized products have been recalled due to contamination since 1990, a fraction of the raw milk recalls. And remember that some of the recalls associated with raw milk products were never confirmed, they were merely accusations from unverified illnesses. Anyone who thinks they are safer drinking commercial pasteurized milk versus whole organic raw milk is kidding themselves.