Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.
Symptoms and Advice
Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses. These harmful bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk or eats foods made from raw milk. However, the bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, and children. In fact, the CDC analysis found that foodborne illness from raw milk especially affected children and teenagers.
Pasteurization is a 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 such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis. Pasteurized milk contains low levels of the type of nonpathogenic bacteria that can cause food spoilage, so storing your pasteurized milk in the refrigerator is still important.
Symptoms and Advice
Symptoms of foodborne illness include:
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
- Flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache
While most healthy people will recover from an illness caused by harmful bacteria in raw milk - or in foods made with raw milk - within a short period of time, some can develop symptoms that are chronic, severe, or even life-threatening.
If you or someone you know becomes ill after consuming raw milk or products made from raw milk - or, if you are pregnant and think you could have consumed contaminated raw milk or cheese - see a doctor or healthcare provider immediately.
Everyone can practice safe food handling by following these four simple steps: