The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk | FDA

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Milk and milk products provide a host of nutritional benefits. But raw milk, that is, unpasteurized milk, can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1993 through 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk or raw dairy products such as ice cream, soft cheese, or yogurt. resulted in 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. The CDC notes that most foodborne illnesses are not part of recognized outbreaks, and for every illness reported, many others occur.

Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, goats, or any other animal, that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria like salmonella, e.g. coli, listeria, campylobacter, and others that cause foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning.”

These bacteria can seriously harm the health of anyone who drinks raw milk or eats products made from raw milk. however, the bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and diabetes), children, the elderly, and pregnant women. In fact, the CDC finds that foodborne illness from raw milk especially affects children and teens.

explanation of “pasteurized milk”

Pasteurization is a widely used process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. First developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for diseases such as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, Q fever, and brucellosis.

raw milk and serious diseases

symptoms and tips

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses typically include:

  • vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body aches
  • While most healthy people will recover from an illness caused by harmful bacteria in raw milk, or foods made from raw milk, in a short time, some may develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening symptoms. If you or someone you know becomes ill after consuming raw milk or raw milk products, or if you are pregnant and think you may have consumed raw milk or contaminated cheese, consult a health professional immediately.

    raw milk & pasteurization: debunking milk myths

    Although pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-dense milk and cheese for more than 120 years, some people still believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe and healthy alternative.


    Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:

    • pasteurized milk does not cause lactose intolerance or allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to milk proteins.
    • Raw milk does not kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
    • Pasteurization does not reduce the nutritional value of milk.
    • Pasteurization does not mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for a long time, especially after it has been opened.
    • pasteurization does kill harmful bacteria.
    • pasteurization does save lives.
    • When in doubt, ask!

      • read the label. safe milk will have the word “pasteurized” on the label. If the word “pasteurized” doesn’t appear on a product’s label, it may contain raw milk.
      • Don’t hesitate to ask the grocer or health food store clerk if milk or cream has been pasteurized, especially milk or milk products sold in refrigerated cases.
      • Do not buy milk or milk products at farmers’ markets or roadside stands unless you can confirm that they have been pasteurized.
      • Is your homemade ice cream safe?

        every year, homemade ice cream causes serious outbreaks of salmonella infection. the responsible ingredient is raw or undercooked eggs. If you choose to make ice cream at home, use a pasteurized egg product, egg substitute, or pasteurized shell eggs instead of the raw eggs in your favorite recipe. There are also many egg-free ice cream recipes available.

        protect your family with wise food choices

        Most milk and milk products sold commercially in the United States contain pasteurized milk or cream, or the products have been made in a way that kills any dangerous bacteria that may be present. But, raw milk and products made from raw milk are sold and can be harmful to your health. To avoid getting sick from dangerous bacteria found in raw milk, you must choose your milk and dairy products carefully. follow these guidelines:

        safe food handling: four easy steps

        the dangers of unpasteurized milk

        additional information

        • questions and answers about raw milk
        • misconceptions about raw milk and the danger of consuming raw milk
        • fda and cdc remind consumers of the dangers of drinking raw milk
        • myths about raw milk
        • cdc: food safety and raw milk
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