Going green is all the rage these days and science generally supports the trend. Because of that, farmers’ markets, organic grocery stores, food co-ops, and homegrown foods have spiked. Most would agree that unprocessed and organic food is often better for you, except for dairy.
Unpasteurized milk has been brought into the limelight recently. Many people assume that “all natural” means its healthier than pasteurized milk. This is not the case. The pasteurization process does affect some vitamins in the milk such as thiamine, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. However milk is not a major source of these vitamins.
The risks of unpasteurized milk are quite significant. Unpasteurized milk can carry foodborne diseases such as Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and E. coli. Symptoms of these diseases may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, and body aches. The infections are especially harmful to pregnant women, the elderly, children, and people with weaker immune systems. In more severe cases, these illnesses can cause hospitalization, chronic symptoms, and even death.
Not all states have outlawed unpasteurized milk. However, federal law prohibits distributing raw milk across state lines if it has been packaged for consumption. This means raw milk can be moved from state to state if it is transported to plants to be pasteurized or if it is being used to make aged cheese. Many believe that aging cheese for 60 days or more kills foodborne diseases. That issue is now under review by the FDA.
Recently in North Carolina, 8 people who complained of food poisoning were found to have all consumed unpasteurized milk from the Tucker Adkins Dairy in York, S.C. Three of the people were confirmed to have campylobacteriosis and the other five were suspected to have the illness. One of the affected individuals was hospitalized.
Tests of raw milk samples from the dairy were negative for Campylobacter, however according to epidemiologists, Campylobacter jejuni "is notoriously difficult to culture from environmental speciments other than raw stool." The FDA is continuing to test the dairy’s production process.
People should be aware of the dairy products they consume. They should check the labels of dairy products. Dairy products are not required to be labeled as pasteurized. If the carton doesn’t specify that the product was pasteurized, consumers should ask.