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Too fresh for our own good (health)?

January 15, 2014

There’s nothing better than a cool glass of fresh milk after a long day. But how fresh is too fresh?

Some health enthusiasts and dairy farmers advocate the nutritional benefits of raw milk, or milk that comes straight from the cow. They claim that since raw milk does not undergo the rigorous heating and cooling process that pasteurized milk does, raw milk is better for you and has a higher quality of nutrients such as: proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins, and enzymes. But, recent studies show that these claims are unfounded- pasteurized milk has the same nutritional value as raw milk, but without the risk of sickness that raw milk can bring.

Just how popular is raw milk?

As Americans have become increasingly health conscious over the past decade, we have seen raw milk and raw milk products pop up in local farmer’s markets, specialty shops, and can even be specially delivered to your front door. The sale of raw, or unpasteurized milk, is still legal in 30 states, despite numerous attempts to ban sales of this hazardous food product.

The Study

A new policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics took a closer look at the dangers of consuming raw milk and milk products, especially for pregnant women and children. Researchers estimate that as many as 48 million Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year. And get this – among the most preventable of these foodborne illnesses are infections related to the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk products. Who are most at risk for contracting a foodborne illness? Infants, young children, and pregnant women and their unborn fetuses - the population that is most susceptible to life-threatening illness.

In support of this new policy statement, Minnesota health officials estimate that more than 17 percent of the state’s population who drank raw milk got sick. That’s nearly one in five people! Raw milk has been attributed to numerous foodborne illness outbreaks, as well as sporadic illnesses that often go unaccounted for.

The Recommendation

The AAP, along with the FDA and other national and international associations, recommends that young children and pregnant women only consume pasteurized milk and milk products. The AAP also endorses a ban on the sale of raw milk and milk products through the United States, including certain raw milk cheeses. These recommendations are based on the prevalence of foodborne illnesses due to raw milk, along with the strong scientific evidence that pasteurization does not alter the nutritional value of milk.

Based on the policy statement, studies, and expert recommendations, why take the risk with raw milk? Keep your family safe and healthy by limiting your milk consumption to pasteurized milk products. It tastes just as good and provides lots of nutrition, while keeping your family safe from illness.