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I was reading a story in the paper today about raw milk and how the FDA is cracking down on the sale of raw milk to consumers. Currently 21 states prohibit the sale of raw milk for human consumption, and the FDA does not allow cross-border sales.
What makes it "raw"?
Raw milk is very simply unpasteurized milk. It does not mean it is organic (although it could be either organic or conventional), but simply not pasteurized. Proponents of raw milk think pasteurization strengthens the immune system and helps prevent digestive problems. They also think that pasteurization kills healthy proteins and enzymes. Raw milk proponents claim it can even treat or cure certain diseases.
Benefits of Pasteurization
French doctor and scientist Louis Pasteur invented the process of pasteurization more than a century ago. Pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria (e.coli, salmonella, listeria, etc.) that may be in the milk but does not destroy any proteins or enzymes that are healthy for us. By destroying the harmful bacteria, it extends the shelf life of the milk.
The National Dairy Council reports that less than 1% of outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States results from dairy products. The outbreaks that are a result of dairy products are from raw milk and raw milk products. Because of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and other safety systems, the American milk and dairy products are among the safest and most highly regulated foods in the world.
Pasteurization involves heating raw milk to a minimum temp of 145 degrees for 30 minutes or to 161 degrees or more for 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.
Since there is not known difference in the nutritional status of raw vs pasteurized milk, and there is definite risk to drinking raw milk, I recommend sticking with the pasteurized.