The Risk of Raw Milk: Pasteurized Milk is Safer
The rise in alternatives to pasteurized cow milk – almond milk, oat milk, soy milk – has inspired a new twist: raw milk. Raw milk is exactly what it sounds like, milk directly from a cow that has yet to be pasteurized. Pasteurizing milk is the process of rapidly heating and cooling milk to kill all harmful bacteria.
But by not pasteurizing the milk, dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, and salmonella, which are responsible for the majority of food poisoning outbreaks, remain a risk in consuming raw milk.
Advocates for raw milk claim that by pasteurizing milk, we lose key benefits of “good” bacteria, enzymes, and natural fat provided by milk in its purest form. These benefits reportedly boost the immune system, fight infection, and in children, will decrease the risk of allergies and asthma. Notwithstanding, the loss of said benefits are not scientifically proven, and producers of raw milk offer only consumer testimonials as proof to these claims. Furthermore, claims that raw milk is helping young children with diseases is a particularly controversial claim, yet unproven, being that children are a part of the population most at risk for food borne illnesses.
Food agencies such as the CDC and FDA warn against the dangers of raw milk due to multiple food poisoning cases associated with raw milk. From 2007 to 2012, 979 cases of food poisoning cases were found in direct connection to the consumption of raw milk and associated products.
Advocates for raw milk, such as A Campaign for Real Milk, argue that these food poisoning outbreaks can be from a multitude of other food products – again, without considering the very stringent trace-back investigations that led to these conclusions (in reality, the number of raw milk illnesses is likely 30 times that number for those years). Unfortunately, some raw milk advocates argue that food health inspection agencies are biased against real raw milk and will quickly blame raw milk as the source of food poisoning with no proof.
The loss of consumers of cow milk due to new alternative milks, farmers are desperate to regain customers, and some are using raw milk as a new marketing strategy. To those uninformed to the dangers of raw milk, the proposed benefits seem substantial. However, the risk of food poisoning, and even possible death, do not outweigh those unscientifically backed benefits.