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Food Safety and Raw Milk

Real-Life Raw Milk Stories


“Back to nature”-- that’s what many Americans are trying to do with the foods that they buy and eat.  They are shopping at farmers’ markets, picking organic foods at their grocery stores, participating in food cooperatives (or co-ops), and some are even growing their own food.  Many people are trying to eat foods that are produced with minimal processing.

However, milk and products made from milk (including certain cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt) are foods that, when consumed raw, can pose severe health risks.  Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization, which can be done by heating the milk briefly (for example heating it to  161 °F for about 20 seconds), to kill disease-causing germs (e.g., Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Campylobacter) that can be found in raw milk. 

Before the invention and acceptance of pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses.  These illnesses killed many people each year, especially young children.  In the 1900s many mothers recognized this risk and would boil milk (bringing it to a temperature of 212°F) before giving it to their infants and young children. 

Many studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk – pasteurized milk is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Heat slightly affects a few of the vitamins found in milk--  thiamine, vitamin B12, and vitamin C-- but milk is only a minor source of these vitamins.   

milk bottle and glass

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