There continues to be considerable public debate on the possible benefits regarding the growing popularity of the consumption of raw milk. However, there are significant concerns by regulatory, or public health, organizations like the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of risk of contracting milkborne illnesses if the raw milk is contaminated with human pathogens. This review describes why pasteurization of milk was introduced more than 100 years ago, how pasteurization helped to reduce the incidence of illnesses associated with raw milk consumption, and the prevalence of pathogens in raw milk. In some studies, up to a third of all raw milk samples contained pathogens, even when sourced from clinically healthy animals or from milk that appeared to be of good quality. This review critically evaluates some of the popularly suggested benefits of raw milk. Claims related to improved nutrition, prevention of lactose intolerance, or provision of “good” bacteria from the consumption of raw milk have no scientific basis and are myths. There are some epidemiological data that indicate that children growing up in a farming environment are associated with a decreased risk of allergy and asthma; a variety of environmental factors may be involved and there is no direct evidence that raw milk consumption is involved in any “protective” effect.
John A. Lucey, PhD, is a professor of food science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and director of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is on the chemistry and technology of dairy products and on the properties of food proteins. He has published around more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and more than 21 book chapters. He received a BS in Food Science and a PhD in Food Chemistry, both from University College Cork (Ireland).
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: John A. Lucey, PhD, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1605 Linden Dr, Babcock Hall, Madison, WI 53706 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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