Drinking raw milk has an increased risk of foodborne illness, according to a report prepared for the Maryland General Assembly. Last year, the House of Delegates’ Health and Operations Committee was considering a bill to legalize the on-farm sale of unpasteurized milk in Maryland and asked researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) to review the benefits and risks associated with drinking raw cow’s milk. CLF presented its findings to legislators in December, but just released them to the public last week. “Overall, our review identified no evidence that the potential benefits of consuming raw milk outweigh the known health risks,” the report stated. The authors analyzed 81 studies which directly compared the public health concerns of raw and pasteurized fluid cow’s milk. Articles focusing solely on comparing the nutritional content of raw versus pasteurized milk were not considered. One of the main benefits of raw milk identified in the literature review was the association between consumption and a lower prevalence of allergies. But a causal relationship has not been proven, and the researchers noted that the studies they reviewed about this association “explicitly stated such results do not support drinking raw milk. Most of these articles also stated they do not recommend drinking raw milk, as the risk of microbial contamination is too serious.” The potential benefits of drinking raw milk are unclear and would benefit from further investigation, according to the report. For example, the researchers wrote that they would like to see future studies compare the benefits of raw milk with mildly pasteurized milk since homogenization is also not required for pasteurization and skipping it could also help retain beneficial components of milk, such as caseins and whey proteins. The authors also noted that although there is a low total number of reported foodborne illnesses caused by raw milk, it’s important to remember how few people in the U.S. actually drink it. “If consumption of raw milk increased, then the number of illnesses would quickly outpace those attributed to pasteurized milk,” they wrote. When it comes to the heated debate surrounding raw milk, the researchers wrote that both sides “would gain much by being willing to discuss and compromise on their positions.” Ultimately, CLF wrote that given the scientific evidence, they don’t recommend the consumption of raw milk. If raw milk sales do become legal in Maryland, the group recommends a labeling system, requiring farm safety and hygienic practices, and restricting pregnant women and children from drinking raw milk due to their increased susceptibility to microbial hazards.