Raw milk is one of the darlings of the all-natural diet world, but that doesn't mean that it's safe or that it has all of the benefits some people claim it has. While raw milk might have health benefits, the risks far outweigh these, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has gone so far as to recommend that humans don't consume it. Educate yourself with the facts so you can make the best decision for the health of your family.
Raw Milk Defined
Raw milk is essentially milk that's consumed straight out of the cow's udder. Other types of raw milk, such as goat's or sheep's milk, are also consumed, but are less common than raw cow's milk. Raw milk isn't heated or processed in any way. In addition to the nutrients that raw milk has, it can also contain bacteria or parasites that can cause serious illness, and in some cases, even death. These harmful bacteria and parasites are what cause the controversy over the benefits and risks of raw milk.
The primary reason that people opt to drink raw milk is that they believe that the heating and pasteurization process destroys the nutrients that milk contains, though that's not the case, a 2009 article published in "Clinical Infectious Diseases" reports. Other people claim that raw milk tastes better than pasteurized milk, according to a 2010 article published in "Clinical Infectious Diseases." Another reason that many people choose to drink raw milk is because they want to support local farms, which is certainly a benefit to small communities.
Dangers of Raw Milk
The risks associated with drinking raw milk far outweigh the potential benefits. Raw milk can be contaminated with bacteria that causes illnesses such as salmonella and E.coli, both of which cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In more serious cases, these, and other illnesses, can require hospitalization and in rare instances, death. A small number of people develop Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes paralysis, from drinking raw milk, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pregnant women and children should never drink raw milk because they're at the highest risk for developing catastrophic symptoms from bacteria and parasites. Only drink milk that's been pasteurized and stored at temperatures at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. If you purchase milk from a local farm, always ask the farmer if it's been pasteurized. Check labels, too. If a bottle of milk doesn't explicitly state that it's been pasteurized, chances are it hasn't, in which case you shouldn't drink it.