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Study: Raw and Pasteurized Milk Differ in Taste, Smell and Safety

Belgian researchers have not exactly said the benefits of raw milk often cited by advocates exist only in their heads, but they’ve come pretty close. They’ve found that the only big difference between pasteurized and non-pasteurized milk is “organoleptic,” meaning how it tastes, smells, feels or appears.

Their conclusion: raw milk is a “realistic and unnecessary” health threat because, until pasteurized, milk pathogenic bacteria poses a significant threat from Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli.

Published in Food Control Journal, the Belgian research recommends the heat treatment of milk for human consumption, especially for young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

The study did not find any support for the notions held by many raw-milk advocates that pasteurization “destroys the nutritional and health benefits of milk, and can even induce some detrimental effects.” The researchers say that those arguments can be refuted.

“It is clear that this ‘detrimental’ effect of heating does not countervail the risk poised by raw milk consumption, namely of milk-borne pathogen infection, which can have serious health consequences,” the Belgian study states.

Last month at two rambunctious public hearings held by the Wisconsin Senate, numerous advocates testified that raw milk offers special health benefits. Bills are pending in both Wisconsin’s Senate and General Assembly to allow the retail sale of raw milk, but since the hearings, they’ve not seen further action.

The reason the bills have stalled might well be the public doubts being expressed about them by Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

At the World Dairy Expo in Madison last week — held to show off Wisconsin’s $26.5-billion, mostly pasteurized, dairy industry — Walker said he’d consider a raw-milk bill if it reached his desk, but he also said he had doubts if it would be best for “America’s Dairyland.”

Governors with doubts about pending bills are like wet blankets at picnics.

Why take a controversial vote only to have the governor take out the veto pen? That’s what happened in 2010, the last time the Wisconsin Legislature agreed to make raw milk sales legal. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed that one.

Wisconsin’s transition from Gov. Doyle to Gov. Walker may not end up being as important for the raw-milk debate as two other developments. They are:

  • The 22-member Raw Milk Policy Work Group, named in March 2010, came out with restrictive requirements that it said would be needed if raw-milk retail sales were ever made legal in Wisconsin.
  • The Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition has unified the dairy and agricultural industries with public health and hospitals in a powerful coalition to block changes to milk policy that might damage people or the economy in the state.
© Food Safety News
  • bachcole

    My son’s and my wife’s allergies STOPPED thanks to raw milk. End of debate for me.

    However, since raw milk is so difficult to obtain and so expensive, we switched to raw, local honey, which also works. I haven’t seen a sniffle around here in at least 6 months. So, now I expect the medical authorities and the FDA to go after raw, local honey. After all, it is competition for all kinds of things, like allergy medicine, cooked, non-local honey, other sweeteners, etc.

    • Perhaps your wife and son’s allergies would have stopped if they’d been given sugar pills, or a witch doctor chanted over them.

      “They became better on raw milk, but raw honey works, too.”

      Anecdotal evidence is no evidence. It’s wishful thinking, compounded by naivete.

      • bachcole

        You don’t define what is real. You don’t define what constitutes evidence. You don’t definite what constitutes science. You are hurting yourself only; what you just said means nothing to me personally.

        • Gary

          Apparently we are all in the Matrix…

        • abraxasMN

          What constitutes science isn’t up for debate. YOU don’t get to define what science means, either, Bachcole. Where is Neil deGrasse Tyson?

        • Emily Nelson

          Neither do you. And you don’t “hurt yourself only” when you drink raw milk and get sick. You can infect others. And the cost of the investigation AND your illness is borne by society.

          • Stephen Miller

            NO. You cannot infect others with food poisoning. Where do you get this rubbish?

        • Oginikwe

          Do what is right for you and your family and ignore the rest.

          I’ve talked with lots of families that have had the same experiences that you report. Science doesn’t always get it right and this is an evolving argument as many people drink raw milk without problems and many very old people still alive grew up on raw milk. Maybe the answer is that raw milk isn’t a product for mass production. People need to carefully weigh their decisions on risk. Many people wouldn’t consider drinking raw milk in the first place if artificial rBGH was pulled from the market.

          Anyone who spends anytime on this website has to admit that raw milk is just one of many foods that could make people sick. To the letter, every meat recall has a USDA stamp on it and those food borne illnesses aren’t any less deadly.

    • John A. Zoidberg

      correlation does not equal causation.

  • Sam

    The best way to resolve this is to allow the Wisconsin people to make and sell all the raw milk they wish, and then count the bodies. If there are no bodies, then their raw milk is fine. If the bodies stack up, the Wisconsin lawyers will enjoy a profitable field day in endless lawsuits. But either way, the Wisconsin milk story will find a conclusion. And the rest of the world will learn from it..

    • Why not pull all the police in a community, in order to determine if they’re really needed?

      There is a public cost to foodborne illness outbreaks that is not paid by those who produce the products that become contaminated, and rarely by the people who buy the products. They get sick, yes, and die, yes, but the costs of determining what caused the outbreak is born by the public.

      • summa cum latte

        IMHO, most people who buy raw milk are very well educated and self-sufficient types who are willing to pay 3 to 4 times the price of a gallon of milk to buy raw. These are not likely to be the same people who use the emergency room as their personal free clinic, passing the cost of a potential illness to society at large. Almost everyone I know personally who buys raw milk are middle to upper middle class, have their own health insurance, and contribute more to society than would act as a drain on the system if their raw milk gave them an illness.

        Also, you don’t go around buying raw milk here and there, randomly. You buy from the farmer you know, often the same cow’s milk each time. You drink it regularly. Just like family members are “immune” to each others’ normal bacteria, you get “immune” to the normal bacteria from “your” farm that would cause a small fraction of people a bellyache if they overindulge the first time they try raw milk. There are thousands more bacteria than the 2 or 3 bad ones or the few good ones most people are familiar with. Most of them do no harm and help strengthen your immune system against the ones that will really hurt you.

        Finally, why should your fear of me getting sick be sufficient for you to dictate my peaceful, private choices? It’s my body, isn’t it? Last time I checked I’m helping foot the bill for literally millions of abortions per year, because it’s their body, their choice. I am against ending any human life, but I don’t get to dictate what private choices they make with their body, either.

      • Lorin Chane Partain

        Not a persuasive argument. The police are largely not needed, unless your the government since they collect revenues for the politicians. From that perspective they are needed, however from the citizen’s perspective, not so much. We could do with a lot fewer of them.

    • Stephen Miller

      They already did this in Europe and other states. Raw milk is a little riskier than pasteurized, but in the end oysters and booze and cars and cigarettes… well, you know the rest. To put it simply, the bodies didn’t stack up. The problem is we aren’t learning from it!

      The issue in Wisconsin is all about the large commercial dairy industry’s customer-base and reputation. The real issue for the rest of us is one of freedom of choice to eat a relatively safe traditional food with a number of uqniue benefits.

      • Lorin Chane Partain

        Nail on the head. The larger dairies don’t want more competition, their milk is already gumming up the store shelves. All they need is one more competitive alternative. They don’t want you to have that choice.

    • Lorin Chane Partain

      That is not necessary, since here in California raw milk is fully available on the shelves and always has been. No pandemic here, never was. I personally have been drinking it for years, never a problem. My kids have been raised on it, they are very healthy.

  • Tory

    There was a reason that milk was pasteurized in the first place and it wasn’t to make more money. it was to reduce the body count of dead and sick people. Yes some times you can drink raw milk and get away with it. You can also play Russian Roulette and get away with it some times but what fool wants to do that especially to their children? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    • bachcole

      So-called raw milk of 115 years ago came from cows fed and treated dreadfully. Are you saying that your mother’s milk was inherently illness generating?

      • Emily Nelson

        You’re actually comparing breast milk to cow’s milk in terms of bacterial contamination? You don’t know much about biology, do you? Cow’s milk is contaminated because the udders are right next to the anus. Until you can find a woman with that biological configuration, your comparison is absolutely ridiculous.

        • Morales

          human female might have her breasts far from the anus for one because we walk not crawl, but the vagina that gives you birth is absolutely right next to the anus. so we are very likely get infection from birth as much as drinking raw milk from a cow ?

          • Lorin Chane Partain

            that dog just does not hunt. This is an apples and oranges comparison. Secondly the baby cows drink the milk from the mother in far more dirty condition then when raw milk is extracted. Suctions cups are used that isolate the teet, and iodine is used as a disinfectant prior to extracting the milk. There is little chance of contamination from fecal matter using the prevailing methods. Also, with today’s technology we can test not just for bacteria, but for specific pathogens, and raw dairies do. Pastueurization is a technology that is well over 100 years old. We have far more sophisticated techniques today then before. I suggest we use them, and drink the raw milk for all of it’s benefits.

        • Lorin Chane Partain

          It’s not because of the location of the udders, but because of the general lack of cleanliness of the dairies. Which pasteurization allows them to get away with? Why keep a clean dairy when you can just cook the milk.

      • mjv64

        Your mother’s breasts are not right under where she poops like the cows udders. Location! Location! Location!

      • Tracy Lee Reed

        Well said

    • Julie Roberts

      You can choose to buy a gun but you can’t choose to buy raw milk
      (because it might kill you). The logic is insane. Anybody who has done
      their research would understand why milk was pasteurized in the first
      place. Read The Untold Story of Milk. The reason why people were dying
      from milk was that the cows were held in deplorable conditions, unable
      to lay down, standing in their own feces, being fed the leftovers from
      whiskey distilleries. It was called “swill milk”. There was no
      refrigeration and people were dying by truckloads due to many, many
      reasons. Enter pasteurization. That became the norm, not because it was
      necessary, but because people could treat their cows horribly, and still
      kill the bacteria that was in the milk. It also killed whatever good
      bacteria there was as well. I can’t say that our milk industry is much
      better these days–as an industry, we treat all our feed animals
      terribly…chickens, cows, etc. Grass fed, organic milk (and if you can
      find it, raw milk) is the best you can do. Do you even remember why mad cow disease happened??
      Grinding up dead cows and then FEEDING them to other cows and animals.
      Is this their natural diet? Herbivores eating their own kind. Learn more about the system!!!

      • There’s several decades between the swill milk scandal and the rise of pasteurization.

        If you’re going to quote history, you might want to read it first.

  • savvy

    So you are telling me that pasturization is able to affect only the bad stuff and not the good stuff in milk? That seems pretty unbelievable, I’ll need a little more scientific data…

    • Gary

      No, specifically from the article, “It is clear that this ‘detrimental’ effect of heating does not
      countervail the risk poised by raw milk consumption, namely of
      milk-borne pathogen infection, which can have serious health

      Basically, it isn’t worth the risk in drinking raw milk.

  • J T

    I propose a compromise. Keep the pasteurization, but lose the HOMOGENIZATION. Homogenization has zero impact on safety, yet it does have some very serious ADVERSE health effects. You are all looking under the wrong stones. Homogenization is what makes the milk unfit for human consumption. Go right now and read about Xanthine Oxidase and its effects on your heart and arteries. Homogenization makes the large fat/proein molecules suddenly become tiny, allowing them to be more easily absorbed into the blood stream before being fully acted on by the digestive system.

    • Gary

      The problem with that is the milk that is pasteurized, but un-homogenized leads to oxidation which affects the sensory properties of the milk. There is no health risk, but the shelf-life is shortened due to the oxidation effect.

      • mjv64

        That’s why we buy local and eat/drink fresh. I agree with J T.

      • J T

        I would rather have a slightly shorter shelf life than the damage caused to my heart and arteries from the homogenization by-products… Maybe you need to give a little more consideration to figuring out priorities, Gary.

  • bachcole

    Reductionism is a lie when it comes to human beings. Reductionism works great when dealing with inanimate objects such as hydrogen bombs and striped toothpaste.

  • dbwilma

    This was a review of past research, and most of the relevant studies appear to be from the early to mid 90’s. Anyone that’s good at this able to determine who funded the study? Here is a link:


    While I would certainly prefer there to be solid science showing the benefits of drinking raw milk over pasteurized, it’s unclear to me whether our current understanding of nutrition is adequate even now 20 years later (after the relevant studies noted above).

    I choose to provide my family raw milk and will continue to do so, but I did my own research before making that decision, and found a local provider I trust. This is a basic right we all should have.

  • bachcole

    Homeopathy can be replicated. It is quite often. Just because it is difficult to find the right remedy for a particular person does not mean that it is not replicated. It just means that you are not understanding what is going on.

    • Homeopathy is an antithesis of science. It is an almost complete rejection of the scientific method.

  • dbwilma

    You understand that by boiling the raw milk you are pasteurizing it, right? At 30 mins I think you are mixing up the recommendations for unsafe water. I found this pdf which gives the standard times and temps for the various pasteurization methods:


  • Stephen Miller

    A terribly flawed study. Any country bumpkin with access to a cow knows the vast, demonstrable, and reproducible differences between raw and pasteurized milk.

    I’ll make it simple for all the naive commenters who have apparently never been to a farm or seen real milk before.

    PASTURED, un-pasteurized milk
    Udder scrapes grass->lactic acid bacteria are transferred from grass to teat->milk is expressed from teat and immediately comes into contact with lactic acid bacteria->lactic acid bacteria colonize milk->given enough time (time varies depending on temperature) and lack of exposure to oxygen, the milk ferments->the milk is preserved as clabber, indefinitely.

    Fermentation consumes sugar and adds B vitamins and something called “lactic acid.” Lactic acid is an organic acid with its own caloric value, and proven antimicrobial properties to boot.

    Pasteurization kills the lactic acid bacteria in milk and destroys water soluble vitamins; this means this milk is not only not as nutritious, but it becomes innoculated with any old bacteria it comes in contact with, causing it to rot instead of ferment as time passes.

    A simple experiment at home will prove this. Why don’t all the ignorant contrarians try this simple experiment themselves before parrotting uninformed nonsense here?

    This has all been common scientific (as in, demonstrated in peer-reviewed scientific papers) knowledge for about 100 years. It isn’t a matter of debate, and stupid studies like this just show how ignorant even so-called modern researchers are of not only of basic biology but also the fundamentals of farming and animal husbandry.

    • Everything you’re saying is rubbish, or misinformation.

      One might as well believe in unicorns–it’s all fantasy, and at least you don’t catch e.coli from unicorns.

      • Stephen Miller

        Shelley, it’s all right in the review that this article is actually about. (It’s not really a study per se, just retrospective of other studies.)

        From the paper itself:

        “Probiotic bacteria (specific strains belonging to Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus species), are described as health-promoting micro-organisms (Ishibashi & Yamazaki, 2001). Raw milk can contain probiotic bacteria.”

        “Raw cow milk contains different systems with antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of micro-organisms in raw milk and/or contribute to the immunity of the young calf, amongst which are enzymes (lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, xanthine oxidase) and proteins (lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, bacteriocins) (Table 3). […] the enzymes are inactivated by pasteurization […] Bacteriocins (e.g. nisin) can be produced by micro-organisms present in milk (Lactococcus, Lactobacillus) and most withstand temperatures of 60–100 °C during more than 30 min” [UHT is between 135 & 150 °C]

        “Commensal lactic acid bacteria [a kind of probiotic bacteria] present in raw milk inhibit the multiplication of bacteria, including pathogens.”

        “[…] the elimination of [lactic acid] bacteria in pasteurized milk can have undesirable consequences. Bacterial spores (e.g. B. cereus spores) surviving pasteurization as well as vegetative bacteria that can contaminate milk after pasteurization (post-contamination), grow better in the absence of lactic acid bacteria.”

        “Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase (β-galactosidase). Fermented milk products (e.g. yoghurt, fermented cheese) are fairly well tolerated by lactose intolerant people because lactose is hydrolyzed (“predigested”) by the microbial lactase present in these products (Schaafsma, 2008).” [Raw milk, if left out at room temperature in a sealed container or with a layer of natural-forming cream on top, is fermented by the naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, producing clabber, a kind of natural yogurt. This is how you make cream cheese/creme fraiche/crema fresca, cottage cheese, curds & whey, whey butter, etc.]

        “A number of epidemiological studies suggest that early-life exposure to unprocessed cow milk could reduce the risk for developing asthma, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, pollen allergy and atopic sensitization (Barnes et al., 2001; Loss et al., 2011; Perkin & Strachan, 2006; Riedler et al., 2001; Waser et al., 2007; Wickens et al., 2002).”

        In other words, the authors were actually forced into citing the NUMEROUS benefits to raw milk.

        And the authors directly prove their own ignorance about milk with this comment:

        “Additionally, above refrigeration temperature the growth of [lactic acid] bacteria provokes rapid degradation of the milk (acidification, coagulation), rendering the milk unsuitable for consumption.”

        I guess they didn’t grow up eating clabber!

        A link to the actual review, since one apparently wasn’t provided in the article:

        See also:

      • Cam

        I believe everything our USDA and FDA tell me. Like the information on transfats. They are very bad. No they are very good. Wait, I’m confused. In the 70s they were good, but now they’re bad. I’ve got a National Geographic around here somewhere with an advertisement on the back telling me how good they were for me. Now the flip flop has begun on low fat diets. I think we need to quit screwing around with our food, process it as little as possible, and you leave me alone if I don’t want to eat like you. After I quit having to pay the price for other people drinking, smoking and every other legal vice I might worry a dab about what a small handful of people drinking milk straight off the spicket might cost me.

        • This isn’t about transfats, or even about the FDA or the USDA. This is about fact, and the fact is you’re more likely to get a serious foodborne illness from raw milk than from milk that’s pasteurized.

          And society allowing cigarettes is not equivalent to encouraging the consumption of a product proven to be hazardous. Two different situations, or a variation of “two wrongs do not make a right”.

    • abby beale

      you are right on all accounts- is there anywhere sushi is outlawed? raw fish? hmmmm

  • Lorin Chane Partain

    In California it is legal, and it sells off the shelf at many grocery stores. Been drinking it for near a decade now, not a single problem. My kids are being raised on it, they are rarely ill. What is NOT mentioned in this article is the manner in which dairy farms are run. Do we really think that milk itself is inherently dangerous? No, it’s the contamination of the milk that is the problem. Feed lots, and manure strewn facilities with limited space are the problem, not the milk itself. There is no comparing pastured cattle’s milk with feed lot milk. This article makes no distinction between dairy cows at pasture and those that spend all day hoof deep in manure on concrete feedlots. Healthy cows make healthy and safe milk.

    • Anecdotal experience is not evidence. There have been people who have not been as lucky as you:


      • pete

        Anecdotal experience IS evidence. Gather a bunch of said experiences and use some math and now you’ve got scientific evidence.

        But you can’t find what you don’t want to see.

        While all you scare mongers are busy propagandising people around the country are finding out the truth themselves. No one likes you pasteurized adulterated junk ‘milk’. People who can’t drink it without allergic reactions are finding out every day that they can consume raw milk just fine. To them, it is the adulterated junk that isn’t safe.

        • mike

          The researchers who wrote this study did gather “a bunch of said experiences” and used some math. Of course, the researchers went a little beyond anecdotes. As have other serious researchers before them. The culminative experience of those drinking raw milk points to a much higher rate of illness per serving.
          And anyone who is truly allergic to dairy will still react to raw dairy. I can see where the anecdotal report of someone who only thinks they are allergic could confuse things, though. That’s the nature of anecdotal evidence. It’s based on an unscientific personal account and does not carry the weight of something that has been demonstrated through a careful scientific process.

          • Lorin Chane Partain

            “anyone who is truly allergic to dairy will still react to raw dairy.” Not true, my wife and kids cannot drink pasteurized milk, it makes them sick, sometime very much so. They have been drinking the raw milk for nearly a decade now, no problems.

      • Lorin Chane Partain

        my experience is all the evidence I need. Try it for yourself and find out for yourself.



  • Charles Noble

    It strikes me that many of the commenters here are missing the underlying question that this issue raises. Do adults have the right to make their own decisions about what they choose to eat and drink or do we all need the state to not only inform us but to decide for us? Some of us think raw milk is a health giving beverage other think it is a potential disease vector. But who gets to make the decision on whether they will consume it, the free born individual or the state?

    I believe this county was founded on the idea that the individual is sovereign over his own life. It seems we have “progressed” to a different view in the past 100 years.

  • aed939

    An important point ignored in the study is the culinary versatility of fresh milk. One cannot make butter or use the cream from homogenized milk, and one cannot clabber or make yogurt from denatured milk unless one inoculates it with an exogenous culture. Wisconsin is all about either prohibiting the sale, or making the regulations extremely costly and inaccessible in order to protect the big dairy processor’s input costs. The farmers and the consumers both lose.

  • What an incredibly insular and egocentric point of view. If you can’t verify it personally it isn’t true?

  • And again, anecdotal recounting is not scientific evidence.

  • jane

    What a load of crap.I was brought up with milk straight from the cow since I was born in the 60s and I am fine

  • Clara Barker

    Your kids can’t be infected if they have good hygiene. And why do you assume that this mom would send her kids to school if they are not well? Drink your pasturized milk and let other people drink their raw milk and mind your own business.