After recent oil issue in Gulf of Mexico, the most controversial liquid in the media may be Raw Milk – E. coli outbreak. Some researchers argue that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk; however other experts say it comes with bacterial health risks. I am confused? I drink milk due to its wealth of nutrition benefits, especially being a vegetarian. If heating of milk destroys most of the nutritional benefits and on the other hand raw milk causes allergies and other illnesses, is it really necessary to include milk in our diet?
Here are some of the common questions that you might be thinking after hearing about this recent outbreak pertaining to raw milk according to industry experts.
What kind of illnesses can you catch from drinking raw milk or eating raw milk products (cheese, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, butter)?
Raw milk comes directly from cows, goats, sheep, or other animals without any heat treatment. Raw milk and other dairy products made from raw milk can be contaminated with bacteria including Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157: H7, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Some people that get sick from consuming raw milk or its products may have a mild illness that lasts a few days, but other people may get very sick, even requiring hospitalization and emergency surgery.
Does pasteurization of milk provide guarantee of safety?
Pasteurized milk like other processed foods can still become contaminated. In the early 1900’s, pasteurization was introduced to prevent people from getting food poisoning from milk. Outbreaks from pasteurized milk products are pretty uncommon considering the large number of people who drink them. In 2007, three men in Massachusetts died after drinking pasteurized milk that was contaminated with Listeria in the bottling area of the facility.
Does pasteurization destroy all the nutrients and enzymes present in the milk and make it “dead?”
Research shows that pasteurization destroys some nutritious constituents, but causes no significant difference in the nutritional values as compared to unpasteurized milk. According to FDA, here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and its...
- Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
- Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
- Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
- Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time, particularly after it has been opened.
- Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
- Pasteurization DOES save lives.
How many people got sick from raw milk compared to pasteurized milk so far?
According to CDC, between 1998 and 2008, there were 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk, including a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths. Illnesses and deaths have also
been linked to the consumption of fresh cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) milk.
Should babies and children drink raw milk?
Since baby’s or child’s immune system is in developing stage, raw milk is not recommended for them. They are least prepared to fight a bad infection if given contaminated raw milk. It is proven that infants do best if breastfed by their mother whenever possible.
Although there is a debate of nutritional values of raw milk vs. pasteurized milk, but in my view drinking pasteurized milk might be a safer option than drinking raw milk. However, if you like to drink raw milk make sure that it meets “Grade A” standard. Grade A standard requires dairy operation to be inspected twice a year, milk tested every month for bacteria, somatic cell count and antibiotics, milk is cooled to 50ºF within 2 hours of milking, etc.