Image credit: Mother Jones
Between 1993 and 2006, raw milk caused illness for nearly 2000 people in the United States, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Clearly this is an issue that warrants further investigation.
Raw milk is unpasteurized, meaning it can be a carrier of dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, all of which can be fatal for humans. In fact, the FDA reports that raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause health problems than is pasteurized milk. Symptoms of illness can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and head and body aches. The FDA also warns that ingesting raw milk can be an even greater risk for pregnant women, children, seniors, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
As stated by the FDA, there is no discernible difference in the nutritional values of raw milk and pasteurized milk, nor is pasteurization a cause of lactose intolerance or allergic reactions, as common myths proclaim. Its only proven effect is ridding milk of bacteria, which raw milk does not do by itself, as another myth claims.
Even for people who aren’t drinking farm-fresh milk, raw milk could be sneaking into their diets in other ways, most likely in cheese form. Cheeses made from raw milk are mainly soft cheeses, which include the Mexican Queso Blanco and Queso Fresco, and nearly all French cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort. For pregnant women, these cheeses may not cause any physical discomfort, but the FDA cautions that they can still cause miscarriage, fetal death or other harm to the baby.
Because of the FDA’s report on dangers of raw milk, most dairy products sold in the United States are pasteurized. However, raw milk products are still available, so if you’re concerned, consider the guidelines provided by the FDA when choosing dairy products; hard cheese and products made with pasteurized milk are okay to eat. Unsafe are soft cheeses and products made from unpasteurized milk. Safe products will have the word “pasteurized” on the packaging, and ask your grocer if the labeling is unclear.
Finally, it’s important to remember that while pasteurized milk kills the bacteria discussed above, it still contains low levels of the bacteria that cause food to go bad, so it is still necessary to store pasteurized milk in the refrigerator.
For more info, visit Food Facts from the FDA.
Would you drink raw milk? Share your thoughts in the comments below.