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Raw Milk: Clear Risks, No Benefits


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: Think Before You Drink

– www.dairyfarmingtoday.org

– www.foodsafety.gov

– Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products

– Parent Food Safety Guide to Raw Milk

– www.realrawmilkfacts.com

– FDA Food Facts: The Dangers of 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
  • This is going to go over well with the raw milk folks.
    Either you’ll get no feedback, or your comments will get buried. Will be curious to see which way it goes.

  • Scott

    I’m not much of a milk drinker, but have read arguments on both sides – as usual it has become a highly polarized issue with little exploration of how to ensure the safety of raw milk besides pasteurization. I’m sceptical of anything from the government as they often have agendas set by large corporations and tend to be rather myopic in their regulating.
    To bad innovation takes a back seat to politics and greed.

  • Ron

    Pasteurization was an innovation that has a significant positive impact on reducing food borne illness and the human and economic costs associated with it. Perhaps the raw milk industry ought to be putting some money into protective alternatives to pasteurization rather than spouting viewpoints without any scientific merit.

  • Jen

    I am not a raw milk advocate, but I would not go so far as to call raw milk “sinister”.
    If you don’t want to take the advice of the government, read the scientific studies. They show hard data proving that:
    Beneficial bacteria in raw milk does NOT kill pathogenic bacteria;
    The gut of grass fed cows is just as likely to contain pathogenic bacteria as grain fed cows;
    There is no scientifically proven link between homogenized milk and arthrosclerosis;
    yadda yadda.
    I think we should just let people make their own decisions regarding what they consume.

  • vince HUNDT

    A detailed look at the record of the last 50 years reveals that no one has died from drinking raw milk while peopl have died from drinking pasteurized products gone bad. One event in Illinois in 1985 made 260,000 people sick, put 3000 in the hospital and some died.
    The CDC says that 3% of our population drinks raw milk regularily. Where are the sick and dying?
    The CDC says allergies and asthma have increased 5 fold in our children in the past 30 years while studies in Europe show children that drink raw milk have 40% LESS asthma and allergies.
    If Merck had a pill that reduced asthma and allergies in children by 40% with no side effects how long would it take them and the FDA to turn it into a billion dollar drug product?
    Meanwhile pasturized homoginized milk consumption in the USA drops by 1.5% per year. Why?

  • Jane

    Quelle surprise that the IFIC doesn’t like raw milk! Despite its fancy name, the IFIC is nothing more than a shill for the food industry Giants.

  • Minkpuppy

    Please quit throwing around the arguments that there is a raw milk witch hunt and that anyone that disagrees with you is a shill for the government or “Big Industry”. That dog just doesn’t hunt. Raw milk producers have to play buy the rules just like any other milk producers. I agree that the laws need fixing. It seems to me that FDA has been a bit heavy-handed with raw milk and their methods of retention are overkill. However, they acted on evidence that laws were broken and were obligated to act. The methods they used are due to faulty legislation that forces them to call in US Marshals when they want to close down a facility. That needs to change.
    I don’t think anyone is trying to ban all raw milk sales. They’re just calling for continued regulation of its sale and distribution because of its well documented public health risks. Keep sales to certified raw milk producers that are inspected often for sanitation and bacterial counts.
    Keeping it out of interstate commerce is actually a good idea epidemiologically. By confining raw milk sales to individual states, public health officials can identify the source much more quickly and act to get the contaminated milk off the market. They can then (hopefully) work with the producer to get the milk cleaned up.
    I agree that if raw milk producers and consumers think pastuerization is a problem, then they should be working on viable alternatives to reduce pathogens in the milk.
    Regrettably, I will never understand the belief that raw milk is not risky just because “nobody has died recently”. If it’s caused an outbreak(s) that makes people sick, it’s risky.
    This website has repeatedly reported on raw milk related outbreaks that have put children in the hospital with HUS. These kids face a lifetime of kidney and health problems, IF they survive. Ask the mothers that gave those kids raw milk how risky it is. They meant well but as the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. They never imagined the hell their children would go through.
    If you want to drink raw milk, fine. However, do your children a favor, read the scientific studies and recognize that they could get very very sick from the thing that you think is curing all their ills. They could even DIE. Base your decision on that. If you still decide to risk giving it to your kids, then place the blame where it belongs if they get sick, not on “big ag” or spinach or some other excuse.
    Outbreaks related to pastuerized milk are rare and are always caused by one of two things. 1) inadequate pastuerization and 2)post-pasteurization contamination. It’s obvious from the numbers that raw milk related illnesses are much more likely to occur.

  • vince

    Have you seen the Internet Journal of Ashtma,Allergy and Immunology report that found that raw milk reduced children’s risk of suffering from allergy related conditions by 40%? Or the University of Basel, Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine study of 16,000 children that found ” Farm milk consumption, ever in life, showed a statistically significant inverse association with asthma.” ?
    Allergy problems in children have increased in the last 30 years to an epidemic level. There is untold lifelong misery and suffering for millions of Americans becasue their immune systems are not fed the right foods when they are young. If there is a remedy with an infintisimally small risk factor ,what informed person would you not take that remedy? Especially since the remedy costs nothing ( we buy milk anyway ) has been a part of our culture for 16,000 years and no one has died from drinking raw milk in 50 years?
    Have we not let the “hygiene theory” sink into our thinking? Have we not connected the Human Biogenome Study that catalogued trillions of bacteria of every size and stripe living in ,on ,under and over every part of our body with human health? Where do these bacteria come from that inhabit our gut? Do we buy them at the drug store?
    Do your children a favor and find them some raw milk.
    CDC statitices are the product of an agency that despises the idea of millions of people buying unpastuized milk directly from farmers with “dirty” hands. The CDC only revealed that they had learned, in a general health and nutrition survey that they paid for, that 3% of our population drinks raw milk by having it extracted from them with a Freedom Of Information suit. Unfortunatly, the CDC is a politized instituiton.

  • vince
    The Smithsonian had one of the better takes on the GABRIELA study
    Pay particular attention to the mention of rational thinking at the end.

  • vince

    Like Schopenhauer said; Important new ideas are first ridiculed, then attacked and finally seen as obvious. Perfectly rational.
    Organic food in general followed the same pattern. In the 1980’s it was the domain of the lunatic fringe. Today Whole Foods is the status symbol of the educated and the wealthy.
    This is not just about raw milk. It is about raw carrots and sauer kraut , yogurt and fresh strawberries. ” Food with life in it.”
    As opposed to pasturized , sterilized, irradiated , denatured , ” dead food”.
    There is a difference between Tang and an orange.
    Follow the reasoning?
    Why don’t we pasturize everything before we eat it ?
    And if we did, how do we prevent children from putting dirty fingers in their mouth?

  • Sharon Choy

    “While the perceived nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear.”
    One should consider why it is that there have NOT been scientific studies to substantiate the health benefits of raw milk consumption. Could it be that lobbies prevent/slow such studies from being undertaken?
    If this subject is to be fairly considered, we need to see that just such studies are funded…carried out and the results compared. THEN we can have a discussion.

  • Minkpuppy

    One has to be very careful about how one reads the studies and not ignore all the factors that could possibly affect the outcome. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that raw milk is the thing making the kids healthier if that’s what you’re looking for but there’s numerous other factors that probably contribute more to the results.
    The studies you refer to looked at farm kids. Farm kids are exposed to all sorts of things that city kids aren’t. It can’t all be attributed to raw milk by itself. They are around bacteria, dust, mold and all sorts of pollen 24/7. Continual challenging of their immune systems from multiple sources is likely what reduces the allergies and builds their resistance to illness.
    I would never give a city kid raw milk, under any circumstances. They do not have the same resistance as the kids on the dairy farm. I wouldn’t give it to dairy farm kids either without boiling it first.
    I grew up on the farm, was constantly around livestock, played in the dirt, ate meat raised on our farm, etc. I practically lived in our barn all summer. I still have mild allergies in spite of those exposures. We drank boiled milk from our cows when we still had them. Never raw milk. Again, my allergies are MILD even though I was considered “sickly” at the time. Looking back, I really wasn’t sick that much more than any other kid (I had a helicopter mom). Only reason I had to have sinus surgery was my petite anatomy. There’s no room in nose/ skull for my sinuses to clear properly :-(.
    It would have been different if I had grown up where I live now. Smog and discharge from refineries and chemical plants. Yum! Love breathing that all day! Kids in this area have a very high rate of asthma due to that exposure.
    Bottom line: As a food safety worker, I don’t want to see anymore sick kids when it can be so easily prevented. Fix the bad regulations but keep raw milk regulated.
    All I see are excuses when illnesses are connected to raw milk. How about some REAL solutions. Find ways to reduce the pathogen risk without pasteurization and beyond sanitation and learn about pathogen shedding. If pathogen shedding is high, sanitation alone isn’t going to knock enough down to prevent an raw milk outbreak. Shedding also occurs in cycles which is why its so dang hard to make a definitive connection to the farm in some cases.
    Other risky foods are regulated and we hold the regulators and producers accountable when an outbreak occurs. Why should raw milk be an exception?

  • Minkie = you’re out of touch with the situation as it really is. Washington State being a handy example ; REAL MILK is regulated, so when there’s a problem, that particular producer is accountable. Meanwhile all the other raw milk dairies just keep on serving people some of the very best food in the world. Same in England, where 100 raw milk dairies provide all the raw milk the country of 50 million wants …With no reported illnesses for the last decade. See how easy that is?

  • Claire

    I don’t know what the answer is but the reason why we are in this mess is because of our lack of knowledge about safe traditional ways of handling food and our food safety laws that allow for very dangerous additives, processes, and handling of our food. This it seems is the primary reason people want to switch to less processes/unprocessed food.
    There are many people responsible for food safety. The producer(farmer) The transporter, the bottler, the second transporter, the workers at the store and finally the person buying the food. Do not expect that anyone can abdicate their personal responsibility for our/your food.
    I believe our lack of community responsibility and accountability for it’s consequences are one big reason much of our food is unsafe. We can make all the laws we like but they won’t protect us. The government is unlikely to protect you completely you know. Pathogens from sick, drugged, dirty animals may even evade or not be killed by the sickening treatments with everything from radiation to ammonia and antibiotics that are supposed to make everything safe to eat.
    Although I guess I risk those same pathogens in Raw milk I do believe in and understand the practices of the farmer I buy raw milk from. It is his animal husbandry and farm to table responsibility and accountability and my knowledge that keep me safer.
    Finally, there will continue to be casualties from food as long as big agribusiness takes our knowledge away from us, anyone can begin to learn more and to understand what they are putting in their mouth.

  • Many companies that manufacture milk should really take it into consideration that machine that pasteurizes milk. Are very reliable because it is important to pasteurize milk, so that people around the world, will be drinking a non-disease kind of people versus people who choose to drink raw milk. Which can affect your body in so many ways, and you can end up severely ill. Who really wants to drink a diseased filled milk, anyway! I believe milk pasteurize is important and it should be more voiced because people who are consuming milk usually lack information between raw milk and pasteurize milk. Thank you so much in taking the time out to writing this article. You explained all the advantage of drinking pasteurizes milk well. I will be sure to refer this to anyone interested in learning more about Milk Pasteurization.

  • reidy12345

    people have been drinking raw milk for a good few  thousand years , so if it was so harmful to infants young children and young mothers and old people i think the population would be a lot less than it is today, i think this article is very misleading its a lot of bull

  • nofoodsafety

    There is not science that proves the risk of raw milk. Yes there are microbes and friendly bacterias and enzymes. 

    Raw Milk history:
    There were multiple deaths in the mid 1800s from rotten milk.
    Though what many don’t know is that the milk only came from cow crowed into filthy stables that were built next to beer and whisky distilleries where the cows were fed spent grain from the distilleries rather than grass fed. And the blue milk this produced was filled with flour and chalk to make it appear fresh. It was fresh. It was deadly. The clean raw milk movement began. There after, it was discovered that pasteurization would killed bateria in milk. Both clean raw and pasteurized milk were sold side by side up until the 1930’s when milk production became more industrialized. State gov. officials were persuaded to supported pasteurization so they passed laws making it harder to get raw milk. 

    Even though the safety of raw milk has been scientifically proven and suggested that raw milk carries many health benefits over pasteurized milk. State and federal health officials still warn against drinking raw milk. 

    Today the only farm crop that is more regulated more then raw milk is marijuana. 

    The law surround raw milk is outdated and irrelevant to the times of technology. Awareness of safety in our culture prevalent. But if you don’t believe me try raw milk yourself. Or, just keep drinking the glass of chalk that causes allergies and other health issues. 
    I question your intentions and financial influences. I can only take your statements as propaganda. No thank you. I will dually note your website as an untrustworthy resource and will share with my community. 

  • Raw milk is one of the most nutritient dense foods on the planet! What you buy as milk in the grocery store is, at best, a dead & nutrient stripped food after it’s high temp sterlilization process. At worst, it is dead AND infused with antibiotics and Bovine Growth Hormone!
    I dont worry much about how safe my fresh raw milk is because, unlike most who buy their nutritionally worthless  version at the grocery store, the milk I buy is the same the farm owners family comsumes : )

  • That’s the most amusing diatribe I’ve ever read…..

  • kmandingo

    Katie is a shill for the industrial milk industry. No more no less. The processed food industry is the evil step child of the Monsantos of the world and the chemical manufacturers of the world whose best advertising is baic lies and deceit.

  • Kevin Ortega

    “On June 27, 2012, IFIC’s food safety and defense manager, Katie Burns — a public relations professional whose job description also consists of “risk/crisis communications”[4] — wrote an article attacking raw milk, entitled “Raw Milk: Clear Risks, No Benefits.” The article repeats the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s sometimes misleading oversimplifications, such as, “pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria” (in fact, pasteurization kills some but not all harmful bacteria; for example, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, the bacteria which cause Johne’s disease in cattle and are linked to Crohn’s disease in humans, may survive current pasteurization conditions[5][6] and are present in one in ten ruminants passing through livestock auction facilities in the U.S[7]) and “pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value”[8] (in fact, although the effects are complex, a 2003 University of Minnesota study found that pasteurization lowers levels of thiamine, vitamin E, biotin, and vitamin B-12[9], for example).”