As more people turn to organic lifestyles, we thought it would be a good idea to share this post on raw milk.
Posted February 15, 2011     By LCDR Casey Barton Behravesh, DVM, DrPH, US Public Health Service

There are many reasons why some people are thinking about drinking raw milk these days. (Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful germs.) Some people want to eat less processed food. Others have heard that raw milk contains more of certain nutrients than pasteurized milk, or that it can prevent or even solve various health problems. Still others think of buying raw milk as one way to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture.

As a public health epidemiologist and veterinarian, I know firsthand how animals and their germs can contaminate all kinds of food, including milk. Also, in my job in the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at CDC, I help investigate outbreaks caused by contaminated food and contact with infected animals.

If you’re thinking about adding raw milk to your diet (or your family’s diet), it’s important for you to understand the risks of drinking raw milk.

Why raw milk is dangerous
Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. Yes, it’s true that it’s possible to get “food poisoning” or foodborne illnesses from many foods, but raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Raw milk and products made from raw milk (such as cheeses and yogurts) can cause serious infections, such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

What happens if you get sick from raw milk
Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death. The seriousness of the illness is determined by many factors, such as the type of germ, the amount of contamination, and the person’s immune defenses.

Speaking of immune defenses… it’s important to remember that some people are at higher risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk. The risk is greater for certain age groups, such as infants, young children, and older adults. It’s also particularly risky for pregnant women (and their unborn babies) and those with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV/AIDS.

Though some people are at higher risk of getting sick from raw milk, even healthy adults and older children can get seriously ill. Those who recover often suffer from life-long medical consequences. To see how devastating these illnesses can be, check out these real-life stories about the dangers of raw milk.

Even healthy animals may carry germs that contaminate raw milk
Outbreaks of illness related to raw milk have been traced back to both grass-fed and grain-fed animals. Raw milk supplied by “certified,” “organic,” or “local dairies has no guarantee of being safe.

How to stay safe
To keep your family safe, follow these simple tips:

Always drink pasteurized milk. Check the label or package to be sure.
If you prefer organic milk, make sure that it’s pasteurized. Raw, organic milk is not safe.
If you or a member of your family consumes raw milk and then becomes ill, call your health care provider immediately. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
For more information, including questions and answers about raw milk, see Food Safety and Raw Milk (CDC).

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Comments

I am 100% all for consuming less processed food but the truth is that compared to 40 years ago we want more convenience. The daily milk man has all but disappeared and as long as we wish to keep milk in our fridge for days on end then unpasteurised is not sensible.

Drinking raw milk is really not recommended. The risks that you have as stated in the article are true. Colon health may be at risk for continued exposure to long term infections by E.coli and Listeria.

The safe alternative is vat-pasteurized milk. Keeps the good stuff like enzymes and kills the bad bugs. It usually comes from family dairies and may cost a little more but totally worth it -plus you can make your own cheese with it!

I've always thought it was weird that people drank the milk of another animal in the first place. And with this I'm not sure what to say because I agree with both points (the fact that unpasteurized milk likely has bacteria that isn't good for us, but also that the less processed our food is the better ...) I think in this case I'll just avoid unpasteurized milk ;)

Unpasturized milk, unpasturized anything really is not good for us. Ancient raw meat consuming cave men were able to handle the meat born bacteria but our digestive system has evolved weaker than our predecessors

I do agreed with the pros and cons of the raw milk outline in the article. So still go for pasteurized milk for safety. Thanks for this article.

I totally agree. So funny how we are the only mammals on earth that drink milk as adults. Go on a milk diet for a while and test out the benefits. Everything in moderation I guess.

Pasturized milk is definately the safe route. Although there are plenty of alternatives to milk that will still deliver all the nutrients and vitamins to a growing body.

I believe you, though it's difficult for me to understand why and how it becomes contaminated since it's best for babies to drink fresh mother's milk.

Thanks for this article.
I grew up with my two younger brothers on a farm in Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein). I remember that we were not allowed to drink any milk before it had been boiled, it seems to me now that science have proved my parents right...

Best regards,

Wolfgang

It's amazing to learn that something like milk, which we think is good for us can in fact be unhealthy.

Why take chances with your children's health? Drink pasteurized milk.

When my wife was a young girl she used to stay on farms in cornwall and she always drank milk straight from the cow, she loved it,not sure if she was to do it regulary that it would be a good idea, I myself have never tasted it, living in a town Ih ave never even seen it, here in the uk its so quick to nip inthe supermarket and grab hold of your milk for the whole week.
Ps whatever happened to the milkmen?

It is a fact that raw milk a good breeding ground for harmful bacterias, there is no doubt about it. Better drink milk with reduced nutrients than milk with all the nutrients contaminated with bacterias. It is more healthier in the long run.

I have used raw milk before...I have a question regarding it...Is it still considered raw, if you put it in a pot and bring it to a boil and then allow it to cool before drinking/using it???

Thanks, Shelley...

Raw Milk!! When I was young we used to milk the cow we had by hand and then scald the milk to get the cream off the top. There is nothing like the clotted cream that comes from this its heavenly!

Organic is the way to go with me but I would never drink in raw milk due to the fact of all the harmful bacteria. Very interesting article.

My mother as a little girl would drink Raw milk!! she is very Healthy!

Organic it's good most of the time but in this case i think people should boil it before drinking it !

This is an absolutely absurd article. It doesn't matter to me what school decided to give you a degree. People have been drinking raw milk far longer than they have been drinking pasteurized milk. You don't site ANY evidence of your assertion that "Raw Milk is Dangerous". My family has drank 1000's of gallons of fresh milk with NO PROBLEMS EVER.

I have a much bigger issue with what the cows are feed than how we go about killing the milk afterwards. Keep cattle on grass only is the key to good and safe milk!

Interesting article, thank you. Are you aware of any possible long term health issues that may be related to drinking raw milk? I worked on a farm when I was between 15 and 19 years old. Drinking raw milk and drinking milk before the pasteurization process was completed was a regular practice back-then.

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