Is it safe to drink raw milk?

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Health Canada advises against drinking raw, (unpasteurized) milk, and milk must be pasteurized in order to be sold in Canada. Pasteurization, named after the French scientist Louis Pasteur, is the process of applying heat to liquids such as milk, wine, beer or juice to kill disease-causing organisms while leaving nutrients intact. Raw milk may contain bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. These bacteria can cause foodborne illness which may lead to fever, vomiting, diarrhea and even life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death. Children, pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system should not drink unpasteurized milk because they can get sick more easily.

If you are at a farmer’s market or visiting a farm where milk is being sold, ask the seller if the product has been pasteurized before buying it.

Raw milk cheese is made from raw milk, and is allowed to be sold in Canada. This is because the manufacturing process of raw milk cheese helps eliminate any harmful bacteria that may be present in raw milk. However, Health Canada still recommends pregnant women, children, older adults and people with a weakened immune system stick with pasteurized cheese.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, April 2012

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