Health Canada, Canada’s government agency responsible for national public health, last week issued a press release reminding its citizens not to drink raw (unpasteurized) milk because it could contain bacteria that can make you seriously ill.
The agency explains:
Unpasteurized milk has historically been linked to many serious diseases. In addition, several different kinds of bacteria that could be found in raw milk, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, have been linked to foodborne illness outbreaks. These bacteria can lead to very serious health conditions ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death. Children, pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system are particularly at risk.
Accordingly, Health Canada noted that because of these dangers, their Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk available for sale in Canada be pasteurized. However, in Canada, raw milk cheese is allowed for sale because the manufacturing process for cheese helps to eliminate many pathogens that may be found in raw milk..
In the United States, the way raw dairy products are regulated varies significantly from state to state. While states have banned the sale of raw milk entirely, others allow retail stores or farmers’ markets to sell raw milk and or restrict sales to on-farm purchases.
According to CDC surveillance data and scientific literature on milk-related outbreaks from 2000-2007, raw dairy products caused 42 (75 percent) of 56 dairy-related outbreaks during this 8-year period, which is almost 5 times more outbreaks compared with pasteurized dairy products. In addition, from 2010-2011, there were 18 raw dairy outbreaks with 202 illnesses and 24 hospitalizations. During that same time frame, there was 1 pasteurized dairy outbreak with 23 illnesses and 2 hospitalizations.
For more information on the risks of unpasteurized milk visit:
Government of Canada’s Tip sheet on Raw Milk
Government of Canada’s Food Safety Portal
Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education Be Food Safe Canada Campaign