The Dangers of Raw Milk

by Carolina on January 26, 2010

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Author: Dr. Arana

Raw Milk is milk from cows, goats, and sheep that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Pasteurization, referred as the heating process that kills harmful bacteria in milk, was first used in the United States in the 1890s after the discovery of germ theory – that proposes that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases – to control the hazards of highly contagious bacterial diseases including bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis that was thought to be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk.

When it was first used, pasteurization was thought to make raw milk from any source safer to consume. More recently, farm sanitation has greatly improved and effective testing has been developed for bovine tuberculosis and other diseases, making other approaches to ensuring safety of milk more feasible; however pasteurization continues to be widely used in case infectious milk should enter the food supply.

Nowadays, there is a debate between Raw and Pasteurized milk. This debate places the alleged health benefits of consuming raw milk against the disease threat of unpasteurized milk. Although agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other worldwide regulatory agencies say that pathogens from raw milk make it unsafe to consume, other organizations say that raw milk has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process and that it can be produced hygienically.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 people in the United States have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998. Pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional content of milk. Products made with raw milk (soft cheese, yogurt, pudding, or ice cream) are the sources of many serious infections. This milk is often contaminated with Campylobacter, Brucella, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli among other pathogens; and it is also dangerous even if the animal it comes from is healthy, clean, and grass-fed. Milk also may be contaminated with the bacteria during the milk collection process. However, some people incorrectly believe there are health benefits to drinking raw milk. Numerous scientific studies show there are many health risks associated with drinking raw milk. Based on those studies, population at risk including infants, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women should avoid raw milk and products made with raw milk, in order to prevent developing of serious infections.

Symptoms of foodborne illness can include: vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, flulike symptoms such as fever, headache and body ache. To prevent illness from consuming products made with raw milk, take a few moments to read the labels. Products made with safe milk will have “pasteurized” on the label. Unless the label says the product is made from pasteurized milk, it may be made from raw milk. Soft cheeses, such as Brie,  made with raw milk can be dangerous. Soft cheese made from pasteurized milk and hard cheeses are considered to be safe. When in doubt ask your grocer or store clerk. Taking a few moments to make sure milk is pasteurized can protect you or your loved ones from serious illness.

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