Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. It can come from any animal. Raw milk can carry dangerous germs such as Brucella, Campylobacter, cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella, which can pose serious health risks to you and your family.
What are the risks associated with drinking raw milk?
Raw milk is milk from any animal that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.
Some people who chose raw milk thinking they would improve their health instead found themselves (or their loved ones) sick in a hospital for several weeks due to infections caused by germs in raw milk. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Some people who drank raw milk have developed severe or even life-threatening diseases, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death.
How does milk get contaminated?
Milk contamination may occur in these ways:
- Animal feces coming into direct contact with the milk
- Infection in the udder (mastitis)
- Cow diseases (for example, bovine tuberculosis)
- Bacteria that live on the skin of animals
- Environment (for example, feces, dirt, and processing equipment)
- Insects, rodents, and other animal vectors
- Unsanitary conditions in milk processing plant
- Cross-contamination from dairy works, such as contact with dirty clothing or boots
Pasteurization is the only way to kill many of the bacteria in milk that can make people very sick.
What is pasteurization, and what is pasteurized milk?
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill illness-causing germs. Pasteurized milk is milk that has gone through this process.
Does pasteurization change milk’s nutritional benefits?
Most of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk are available from pasteurized milk with the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk.
Many medical and scientific organizations recommend pasteurization for all milk consumed by humans; these include CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and others.