Raw milk
Raw milk is milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

 that has not been pasteurized or homogenized
Homogenization (chemistry)
Homogenization or homogenisation is any of several processes used to make a chemical mixture the same throughout.-Definition:Homogenization is intensive blending of mutually related substances or groups of mutually related substances to form a constant of different insoluble phases to obtain a...



Humans consumed raw milk exclusively prior to the industrial revolution and the invention of the pasteurization
Pasteurization is a process of heating a food, usually liquid, to a specific temperature for a definite length of time, and then cooling it immediately. This process slows microbial growth in food...

 process in 1864. During the industrial revolution large populations congregated into urban areas detached from the agricultural lifestyle. Up until that point, individuals and families owned their own goats, cows, and other livestock and milked them on a daily basis.

Pasteurization is a process of heating a food, usually liquid, to a specific temperature for a definite length of time, and then cooling it immediately. This process slows microbial growth in food...

 was first used in the United States in the 1890s after the discovery of germ theory to control the hazards of highly contagious bacterial diseases including bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis
Brucellosis, also called Bang's disease, Crimean fever, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Maltese fever, Mediterranean fever, rock fever, or undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions...

 that was thought to be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk. Initially after the scientific discovery of bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

, no product testing was available to determine if a farmer's milk was safe or infected, so all milk was treated as potentially contagious. After the first test was developed, some farmers actively worked to prevent their infected animals from being killed and removed from food production, or would falsify the test results so that their animals would appear to be free of infection.

When it was first used, pasteurization was thought to make raw milk from any source safer to consume. More recently, farm sanitation has greatly improved and effective testing has been developed for bovine tuberculosis and other diseases, making other approaches to ensuring safety of milk more feasible; however pasteurization continues to be widely used to prevent infected milk from entering the food supply. The recognition of many potentially deadly pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and Salmonella, and their presence in milk products has led to the continuation of pasteurization. The Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health agencies of the United States strongly recommend that the public do not consume raw milk or raw milk products. Young children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to infections originating in raw milk.

Recent advances in the analysis of milk-borne diseases have enabled scientists to track the DNA of the infectious bacteria to the cows on the farms that supplied the raw milk.

Raw vs. pasteurized debate

The raw vs. pasteurized debate pits the alleged health benefits of consuming raw milk against the disease threat of unpasteurized milk. Although agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 (FDA) in the United States, and some regulatory agencies around the world say that pathogens from raw milk make it unsafe to consume, some organizations say that raw milk can be produced hygienically, and that it has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process. This latter statement is not supported by all research.

Legal status

Regulation of the commercial distribution of packaged raw milk varies across the world. Some countries have complete bans, but many had partial bans that do not restrict the purchase of raw milk bought directly from the farmer. Raw milk is sometimes distributed through a cow share program, wherein the consumer owns a share in the dairy animal or the herd, and can be considered to be consuming milk from their own animal. Raw milk is sometimes marketed for animal or pet consumption, or for other uses such as soap making in places where sales for human consumption are prohibited.


Although milk consumption in Africa is fairly low compared to the rest of the world, in tribes where milk consumption is popular, such as the Maasai tribe, milk is typically consumed unpasteurized.


According to the regulations in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 all raw milk products are "legal" and considered "safe for human consumption", and can be sold without any price, variety or quantity restrictions. However, the European countries are free to add certain requirements, usually special sanitary regulations and frequent quality tests (at least once per month) are mandatory.


Raw milk and especially raw milk cheeses are considered the standard for high quality dairy products. Many French cuisine traditionalists consider pasteurized cheeses almost a sacrilege
Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things...

. Many traditional French cheeses have solely been made from raw milk for hundreds of years.


In Germany, raw milk is commonly called Vorzugsmilch. It is sold widely in all health food stores, large supermarkets, gourmet
Gourmet is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses...

 delis and delicatessen
Delicatessen is a term meaning "delicacies" or "fine foods". The word entered English via German,with the old German spelling , plural of Delikatesse "delicacy", ultimately from Latin delicatus....

 sections of department stores, and in most of the German predecessors of health food stores called Reformhaus
Reformhaus is a German/Austrian retailer that specializes in groceries and personal care products according to the principles of the 19th-century Lebensreform movement, for example the products are vegetarian, often organic, and free of synthetic preservatives...

. Raw milk is legally sold in the entire country, and the same goes for raw milk cheeses, which are especially sought out and promoted by the health food
Health food
The term health food is generally used to describe foods that are considered to be beneficial to health, beyond a normal healthy diet required for human nutrition. However, the term is not precisely defined by national regulatory agencies such as the U.S...

 and slow food
Slow Food
Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of...


United Kingdom

Distribution of raw milk is illegal in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. While it is legal in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the only registered producers are in England. About 200 producers sell raw, or "green top" milk direct to consumers, either at the farm, at a Farmers' market
Farmers' market
A farmers' market consists of individual vendors—mostly farmers—who set up booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, to sell produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages...

, or through a delivery service. The bottle must display the warning "this product has not been heat-treated and may contain organisms harmful to health", and the dairy must conform to higher hygiene standards than dairies producing only pasteurised milk.

As it is only legal to supply unpasteurised milk direct to consumers, it is illegal to be sold on the High Street, via shops or supermarkets.


In rural areas of Asia where milk consumption is popular, milk is typically unpasteurized. In large cities of Asia, raw milk, especially from water buffalo
Water buffalo
The water buffalo is a domesticated bovid widely kept in Asia, Europe and South America.Water buffalo can also refer to:*Wild water buffalo , the wild ancestor of the domestic water buffalo...

, is typical. In most countries of Asia, laws prohibiting raw milk are nonexistent or rarely enforced.
However, while milk is sold raw in these areas, household milk is usually consumed after boiling.


The sale of raw milk for drinking purposes is illegal in all states and territories in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, as is all raw cheese. This has been circumvented somewhat by selling raw milk as bath milk. An exception to the cheese rule has been made recently for two Roquefort cheeses. There is some indication of share owning cows, allowing the "owners" to consume the raw milk, but also evidence that the government is trying to close this loophole.


The sale of raw milk directly to consumers is prohibited in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 under the Food and Drug Regulations since 1991.
Provincial laws also forbid the sale and distribution of raw milk. For instance, Ontario's Health Protection and Promotion Act, subsection 18(1) reads: "No person shall sell, offer for sale, deliver or distribute milk or cream that has not been pasteurized or sterilized in a plant that is licensed under the Milk Act or in a plant outside Ontario that meets the standards for plants licensed under the Milk Act."

In January 2010, Michael Schmidt
Michael Schmidt (agriculture)
Michael Schmidt is a Canadian dairy farmer and advocate for raw milk. His story is documented in the film Milk War .Milk War is a story about Michael Schmidt’s battle to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk. In defiance of the law Schmidt has supplied his neighbours with raw milk for over...

 was found not guilty on 19 charges relating to the sale of raw milk in the Ontario Court of Justice. As of February, 2011, that case is under appeal with a scheduled hearing date in April, 2011.

In British Columbia, Alice Jongerden is challenging the constitutionality of that province's legislation, which deems raw milk to be a hazardous product.

Meanwhile, Canada does permit the sale of raw milk cheese
Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....

s that are aged over 60 days. In 2009, the province of Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

modified regulations to allow raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days provided stringent safeguards are met.

United States

Twenty-eight U.S. states do not prohibit sales of raw milk. Cow shares can be found, and raw milk purchased for animal consumption in many states where retail for human consumption is prohibited.

Most states impose restrictions on raw milk suppliers due to concerns about safety. As of 2009, the state of Connecticut has discussed creating possible restrictions upon the sale of raw milk to farms and farmer's markets.
The FDA reports that, in 2002, consuming partially heated raw milk and raw milk products caused 200 Americans to become ill in some manner.

Many governmental officials and the majority of public health organizations hold to the need for pasteurization. Before pasteurization, many dairies, especially in cities, fed their cattle on low-quality food, and their milk was rife with dangerous bacteria. Pasteurizing it was the only way to make it safely drinkable. As pasteurization has been standard for many years, it is now widely assumed that raw milk is dangerous. The Cornell University Food Science Department has compiled data indicating that pathogenic microorganisms are present in between 0.87% and 12.6% of raw milk samples.

Proponents of raw milk (in the U.S.) advance two basic arguments for unpasteurized milk. They claim that pasteurization destroys or damages some of the milk's nutrients, and that while pasteurization may kill "dangerous" bacteria, it also kills off "good" bacteria that raw milk supporters claim to have health benefits. The United States Food and Drug administration claims that this is false, and that pasteurizing milk does not destroy any of its nutritive value.

Proponents also invoke the benefits of direct-marketing when promoting the sale of raw milk. The ability of the farmer to eliminate the middle-man and sell directly to the consumer allows for greater profitability. Many manufacturers sell small-scale pasteurization equipment, thereby allowing farmers to both bypass the milk processors and sell pasteurized milk directly to the consumer. Additionally, some small U.S. dairies are now beginning to adopt low-temperature vat pasteurization. Advocates of low-temperature vat pasteurization note that it produces a product similar to raw milk in composition and is not homogenized.

External links

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