About raw milk
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.
In Canada, it is illegal for anyone to sell raw milk to consumers. Federal and provincial laws both state that raw milk must be pasteurized before it is sold.
Drinking raw milk
Raw milk is not safe to drink. It might contain bacteria that can cause serious diseases, including:
- E. coli
- Listeria monocytogenes - This organism can cause septicemia, meningitis and might even result in death.
Pasteurization heats milk to high temperatures and kills Listeria monocytogenes and all other disease-producing bacteria, making it safe to drink. In Ontario, the minimal pasteurization requirement is to heat the milk to 72°C for 16 seconds at a dairy processing plant. Rapidly cooling the milk helps to prevent spoilage and keeps it safe to drink.
Pasteurization does not significantly change nutritional content, flavour or quality.
Before pasteurization was adopted in the early 1900s, there were many outbreaks of milk-borne disease and death in Canada. Pasteurization enabled public health in Canada to take giant step forward.
Pasteurization destroys disease-causing organisms. It does not affect the quality of nutrients present in milk, such as:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin A
Pasteurization destroys about 20% of Vitamin C, but milk is not a significant source of Vitamin C.
While some people believe that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, any supposed health benefit is greatly outweighed by the overwhelming evidence that drinking unpasteurized milk can make you sick.
Parents should consider that children are at risk for infections from drinking raw milk, and make the safe choice to give them only pasteurized milk.
Some groups are at increased risk of serious illness from drinking raw milk, such as:
- Young children
- The elderly
- People who are ill
- Pregnant women - it can result in stillbirth or miscarriage
- People with weakened immune systems
Reporting of unpasteurized milk for sale
It is illegal to sell, deliver or distribute unpasteurized milk. Report sales of unpasteurized milk to:
The bacterial infection from drinking raw milk can be passed from person to person through hand-to-mouth contact. Individuals can also become carriers, passing the disease to another person without showing signs of illness themselves.
Infection signs, results and solutions
Signs of infection
- Severe diarrhea
Infection can also lead to:
- Life-threatening kidney failure
Dealing with symptoms
Anyone who shows symptoms after drinking raw milk should see a doctor immediately.
About 10% of people with E. coli 0157 develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a serious complication that can lead to kidney failure and death.