June [was] National Dairy Month–a time to appreciate and enjoy all of the wonderful aspects of dairy products, such as the taste and nutrition benefits, as well as the process that has contributed to making milk safe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), intake of dairy products is linked to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lowered blood pressure in adults. USDA recommends three cups of no- or low-fat dairy per day for adults, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
However, there is a more sinister side to dairy–raw milk and raw milk products pose a considerable risk to consumers. Disease-causing bacteria (such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, among others) are killed during pasteurization, but raw milk does not go through that process, leaving the potential for these harmful bacteria to exist in the milk people then consume.
Thanks to Louie Pasteur, a public health issue was essentially eliminated. Pasteurization of milk is the process of heating milk to kill disease-causing bacteria in the raw milk, reducing contamination and the subsequent risk of human illnesse. It began in the United States in the 1920s and became widespread by 1950. The FDA compiled a list of some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:
– Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
– Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
– Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
– Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for an extended period, particularly after it has been opened.
– Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
– Pasteurization DOES save lives.
The incorporation of pasteurization in milk processing greatly reduced the number of illnesses and deaths associated with milk consumption. According to the CDC, “Most public health professionals and health care providers consider pasteurization to be one of public health’s most effective food safety interventions ever!”
While there have been many stories and reports in the news about the benefits of raw milk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have taken a hard stance on raw milk, saying unequivocally that it is not safe. The FDA has gone so far as to say that there are no benefits to drinking raw milk: “While the perceived nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear.”
Raw milk and raw milk products are particularly dangerous for infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. Symptoms of illness caused from consuming raw milk or raw milk products include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, fever, head and body aches. While many people will recover from the illness that causes these symptoms, for others they may become chronic, severe or even life-threatening, causing things such as renal failure. Illness associated with the consumption of raw milk can even cause stillbirths and miscarriages in pregnant women. Watch these three women tell their stories of The Dangers of Raw Milk.
There are many clear benefits to consuming pasteurized dairy products, and the clear risks associated with raw milk cannot be ignored. Protect yourself and your family by choosing pasteurized milk and milk products. Raw milk simply isn’t worth the risk!
Additional Resources on Raw Milk:
“Raw Milk: Clear Risks, No Benefits,” by Katie Burns, was originally published on the International Food Information Council’s Food Insight Blog on June 27, 2012.© Food Safety News