While legal in most U.S. states, raw milk (aka unpasteurized milk) and its products continue to be a source of serious and sometimes deadly bacterial infections. The health risks are especially high for pregnant women and young children. Despite these risks, about 1 to 3% of all dairy products consumed in the U.S. are not pasteurized.
Why do so many still consume unpasteurized milk? Raw foodies argue that raw milk is “healthier” because it has nutrients that are lost in the pasteurization process. It’s healthier, I guess, if you survive the germs that live in raw milk!
Foodborne illness isn’t new. Last year, we saw illnesses linked to lettuce, ground beef and peanut butter. However, infections related to raw milk are one of the most preventable of the foodborne illnesses.
It’s a serious health concern and the reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement today advising pregnant women, infants and children to consume only pasteurized milk, cheese and other milk products.
Bottom line…unpasteurized milk is dangerous. The risk of deadly infections (Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Brucella and E. coli.) is not worth the unverified benefits. Period.
To get similar benefits to the raw milk claims, I suggest yogurt or kefir, both of which contain pro-digestive agents (probiotics).
- A 2012 CDC study found raw milk was 150 times more likely than pasteurized milk to cause illness outbreaks.
- From 1998 to 2009, raw milk consumption has been linked to 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations, 93 illness outbreaks and two deaths.
- These severe and life-threatening illnesses have been associated with miscarriage and stillbirths in pregnant women as well as meningitis and blood-borne infections in both young infants and pregnant women.
Read the full AAP Policy Statement: “Consumption of Raw or Unpasteurized Milk and Milk Products by Pregnant Women and Children”.
Ari Brown, MD