Organic milk or regular? Raw milk or pasteurized? There are several ways to get your milk these days, and without the proper education on the differences and health benefits (or threats) of each, it’s nearly impossible to know which to shoot for. In an earlier article, we detailed the uselessness in organic milk over your regular gallons, but today we’ll investigate reasons for why you should opt for pasteurized milk over raw milk. Pathogens found on dairy farms help determine the high importance of pasteurized milk, like Drug-Resistant Campylobacter.
Dairy Farm Investigations
The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) together with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) launched an investigation on dairy farmers in order to discover whether or not the goats and sheep carried pathogens that would result in human diseases such as zoonoses. Results of the study ultimately showed that pasteurizing milk and following through with the proper hygiene procedures after visiting a goat or sheep dairy farm is vital in the prevention of disease.
Transmission of disease is possible through direct contact with these animals or the environment in which they exist. While agencies commonly investigate farms in order to identify risks and health risks, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all of the risk in raw products produced–such as milk.
According to investigations, shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) and Campylobacter were both frequently discovered at the 200+ dairy farms explored back in 2016. STEC is a kind of pathogenic E. coli that produces the potent shiga toxin, also understood as vertotoxin or verocytotoxin. This shiga toxin causes blood vessel damage and bloody diarrhea. In addition, it plays a key role in causing hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe type of kidney failure, which is the number one cause of acute kidney failure amongst children.
Campylobacter (campy) are groups of bacteria commonly causing food poisoning in humans. The food poisoning caused by campy tends to result in gastroenteritis which is an infection in the gut and intestines, which leads to diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, and vomiting. Campylobacter was detected at 33% of goat farms, and 96% of sheep farms investigated. It was much less commonly found amongst farmers and family members that STEC.
Cattle, sheep, and goats excrete the bacteria in their manure and their split hooves offer a safe place for it to exist, leading to ease of contamination in any milk gathered.
Why Drink Pasteurized Milk?
Raw milk from cows, sheep, or goats has not been processed to kill these harmful bacteria thriving in dairy farms, which means that the milk itself can carry these dangerous bacteria and cause numerous foodborne illnesses. People who drink raw milk or eat food made from raw milk run the risk of contracting serious food poisoning, which can be especially damaging to people with preexisting health problems, compromised or weak immune systems, the elderly, children, and pregnant women.
The pasteurization process is able to eliminate all of the harmful bacteria within the milk by heating it to a certain temperature for a scientifically set period of time. This process was first developed by Louis Pasteur back in 1864. It kills the harmful bacterium and organisms that are responsible for causing a variety of diseases, including listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that even pasteurized milk contains very low levels of nonpathogenic bacteria, such that cause food spoilage of the milk is not properly stored. Keeping your milk in the refrigerator is important!
While the nutritional difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized milk differs slightly, research shows that no meaningful difference exists. Even with this evidence, however, some people still claim nutrition benefits from raw milk. If you’re one of those people who still remains on the edge about which milk to keep in your fridge, here are a few myth-busters to consider:
- Despite common belief, pasteurized milk doesn’t cause lactose intolerance or allergic reactions. For people sensitive to milk proteins, both milks can cause allergic reactions.
- Raw milk contains dangerous pathogens and does not kill them by itself. Even well-kept dairy farms run the risk of producing contaminated raw milk.
- Pasteurization does not eliminate milk’s nutritional values.
- Pasteurization does not mean you can leave milk out of the refrigerator–especially open–for long periods of time.
- Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria and save an untold number of lives.
The FDA notes that:
“Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. First developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis.
Research shows no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk contains low levels of the type of nonpathogenic bacteria that can cause food spoilage, so storing your pasteurized milk in the refrigerator is still important.
While pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-rich milk and cheese for over 120 years, some people continue to believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative.”
But the CDC points out the real dangers inherent in raw milk. According to the CDC: “‘Getting back to nature’ – that’s what many Americans are trying to do with the foods that we buy and eat. We are shopping at farmer’s markets, purchasing organic food, participating in food cooperatives, and even growing our own food. Many people are eating food with minimal processing, and some are even choosing to drink raw milk.
Raw milk and products made from it, however, can pose severe health risks, including death. That’s because raw milk has not undergone a process called pasteurization that kills disease-causing germs…
A healthy lifestyle involves many decisions and steps. One step you might be deciding about is adding raw milk to your diet. Some people think about drinking raw milk because they want to eat fewer processed foods or they want to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture. Others think about drinking raw milk because they heard claims that raw milk is better for their health. Yet, raw milk can be a home for bacteria and other germs that can cause people to become ill.
Harmful germs usually don’t change the look, taste, or smell of milk, so only when milk has been pasteurized can you be certain that these germs were killed. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill disease-causing germs. Pasteurized milk is milk that has gone through this process. To make sure that milk remains safe, processors rapidly cool it after pasteurization, practice sanitary handling, and store milk in clean, closed containers at 45°F or colder.”
So, what do you think now? What kind of milk will you buy?
By: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)