Each year, people become ill from drinking raw milk and eating foods made
from raw dairy products. Unlike most of the milk, cheese, and dairy products
sold in the United States, raw milk and raw dairy products have not been heat
treated or pasteurized to kill germs. Although many states outlaw the sale of
these items, many people including dairy producers, farm workers and their
families, and some ethnic groups continue to drink raw milk and eat foods made
from raw dairy products. Several types of raw cheeses such as feta, brie, queso
fresco, sheep's and goat's milk cheese have been illegally sold in the United
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Germs in These Products Cause Thousands of Illnesses
Raw milk and raw dairy products may carry many types of disease-causing germs
such as Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Yersinia, and
Brucella. When raw milk or raw milk products become contaminated, people who eat
the contaminated foods can get sick. Here are a few examples of outbreaks that
have been reported since 2000:
- 2001: Outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni infections from drinking "raw" or unpasteurized milk.
- 2003: Outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections from eating unpasteurized queso fresco (a
Mexican-style soft cheese)
- 2003: Outbreak of Salmonella infections from eating unpasteurized queso
- 2004: Outbreak of E.
coli.O157 infections from eating unpasteurized queso
These Illnesses Can Be Dangerous
Getting sick from one of these germs can lead to diarrhea, stomach
fever, headache, vomiting, or exhaustion. The misery typically lasts anywhere
from several hours to a week or more but most healthy people will recover.
These illnesses can be dangerous for people with
weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, children, and people with cancer,
an organ transplant, or HIV/AIDS
. Germs found in raw milk and raw dairy products can be especially
dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Pasteurization Is Key to Making Dairy Products Safe
Heat-treating milk to kill germs is called pasteurization. Using heat to
pasteurize milk was first suggested in the late 1800's as a way to decrease the
amount of a germ that causes
tuberculosis. Today, pasteurization is still our
main protection from germs carried in milk and cheese.
Pasteurization is a simple process. In the United
States, raw milk is collected from cows and heated to a high temperature for a short period of time.
This destroys any harmful germs that may be contaminating the milk. After it is
pasteurized, milk and products made from milk are safe for human consumption.
Pasteurization does not harm the nutritional value of milk and cheese.
Playing It Safe
When shopping for milk or cheese, play it safe. Carefully read food labels to
make sure a product is pasteurized. Purchase only products that are pasteurized
or made from pasteurized milk.
These people should always avoid raw milk or raw dairy products:
- Pregnant women or women considering pregnancy
- Children under 5 years of age
- The elderly
- Persons infected with HIV
- Persons with cancer
- Anyone who is
immunocompromised (such as persons with organ transplants)
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control
According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.”