Health Canada

Health Canada

August 06, 2013 13:45 ET

Risks of Drinking Raw Milk

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 6, 2013) - Health Canada would like to remind Canadians not to drink raw (unpasteurized) milk because it may contain bacteria that could make you seriously ill.

Unpasteurized milk has historically been linked to many serious diseases. Several kinds of bacteria that can be found in raw milk, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, have been linked to foodborne illness (food poisoning) outbreaks. These bacteria can cause serious health conditions, ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death. Therefore, Canadians should not drink raw or unpasteurized milk, especially children, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, all of whom are at a higher risk of developing food poisoning.

This is why the Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk sold in Canada be pasteurized. Pasteurization kills the organisms that may cause disease while keeping the nutritional properties of milk intact. Raw milk has not been treated to make it safe. The number of foodborne illness outbreaks from milk has dramatically decreased since pasteurization was made mandatory by Health Canada in 1991.

Pasteurized milk is an important food and contains many nutrients that are essential for good health, including protein, calcium and vitamin D. Unpasteurized milk has not been fortified with vitamin D.

The sale of raw milk is prohibited under the Food and Drugs Act. Raw milk cheese is allowed for sale and considered safe because these cheeses are manufactured and produced in a way that helps to eliminate harmful bacteria that may be present in raw or unpasteurized milk.

Although raw milk is not allowed to be sold in Canada, people have become ill after drinking it when visiting farms. While pasteurized milk is now the standard, there are some Canadians who continue to prefer raw milk because they believe it is healthier. However, it is important to note that any possible benefits are far outweighed by the serious risk of illness from drinking raw milk.

For more information on raw milk and food safety, please visit:

- Healthy Canadians' Raw or unpasteurized milk

- Government of Canada's Food Safety Portal

- Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe

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