Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Is Raw Milk Safe to Drink?

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization means the milk is heated for a short time to a high temperature. Pasteurization is intended to kill potentially pathogenic bacteria (including Brucella, diphtheria, E. coli, Salmonella, Streptococcus, and typhoid) that can be found in milk. This also extends the shelf life of milk. Some people prefer to drink raw milk for its purported health benefits. Several types of cheese (e.g., asiago, camembert, gruyere, Parmigiano-Reggiano, roquefort) are made from raw milk. Unpasteurized milk “goes bad” more quickly than pasteurized milk. It has a shelf life of only 3-5 days. Belgian food safety experts conclude: “Raw milk poses a realistic health threat due to a possible contamination with human pathogens. It is therefore strongly recommended that milk should be heated before consumption.” What about bird flu in cow milk? There are several types of bird flu caused by the H5N1 virus. Bird flu, also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, is common in wild birds worldwide. It is transmitted to domestic poultry and other animals, including dairy cattle. These animal viruses, although potentially dangerous to livestock, do not normally infect humans. Live H5N1 viruses in raw milk may cause digestive upset in those who drink it, but as of now, no human deaths from the virus have been reported. As of the beginning of June 2024, only 4 human cases of H5N1 have been reported in the US, 3 in persons who worked with dairy cattle and 1 person who worked with poultry. All individuals had only mild symptoms. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are monitoring the presence of H5N1 virus in milk. They indicate that pasteurization of commercially available milk and destruction of milk from cows sick with the virus are protecting the milk supply. You can read regularly updated reports here:
To be on the safe side, drink pasteurized, not raw, milk.

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