Pasteurization is a simple process in which milk is heated to 161º F for 15 seconds. This safe, well-tested process turns raw milk into the pasteurized milk that you can buy at the grocery store. Currently, with many people turning towards “whole foods” and away from processed foods, some people are questioning the benefits of pasteurized milk and milk products. Is pasteurized milk really safer? Is it just another form of processing that should be eliminated?
Raw milk can be a source of pathogens that cause foodborne illness that can result in sickness, hospitalization and death. This is because milk may be contaminated in a variety of ways. Pathogens can be spread through feces, water, soil that may be on the cow’s udder, sores on the teats, or from the hands of the dairy worker. Microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria, Yersinia, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium bovis, Coxiella burnetii, Brucella, and E. coli are killed or greatly reduced by pasteurization.
Although some claim that raw milk has improved nutritional value, cures diseases, and even tastes better, raw milk has no scientifically documented health benefits. It is strongly discouraged for children, those that are pregnant, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems because they have the greatest risk of food borne illness from raw milk and milk products. Pregnant women also run the additional risk of miscarriage. Is pasteurized milk really safer? Yes! Pasteurization is not just another form of processing that should be eliminated. It is not a process that is mandated to save time or money, but rather a process that is designed for the safety of the consumer.
Bradley J, Pickering LK, Jareb J. Advise families against giving children unpasteurized milk. AAP News. 2008:29(12):29.
Oliver SP, Boor KJ, Murphy SC, Murinda SE. Food safety hazards associated with consumption of raw milk. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. 2009;6(7):793-806.
The dangers of raw milk: Unpasteurized milk can pose a serious health risk. Food and Drug Administration Web site. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079516.htm. Accessed April 7, 2010.