In the Raw: The Facts on Unpasteurized Milk

04.09.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

By Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN; Redskins Dietitian

To continue our discussion on milk, Alex, a senior dietetic student of mine discusses the topic of Raw Milk.

In the Raw: The Facts on Raw Milk

By: Alexandra Wahlberg, University of Maryland Dietetic Student

Lately I’ve been reading about the controversies surrounding raw milk and maybe you have too. For those who don’t know, raw milk is unaltered milk typically from a cow, goat or sheep. This means it’s not pasteurized, homogenized or treated in anyway, unlike the milk we buy in a grocery store.

As organic and natural foods continue to gain popularity, so too has raw milk. Thinking about making the switch from one to the other? Here are 4 important things to keep in mind before choosing what is best for you and your family:

1. Bacteria Content: During the pasteurization process, harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli, and listeria are killed to ensure consumers won’t experience a foodborne illness. Raw milk does not undergo pasteurization; the process that kills these bacteria. This means there is a larger chance of an outbreak in raw milk than in conventional pasteurized milk. If you choose to consume raw milk, it is very important to do your research about the farms you buy raw milk to make sure you’re getting a good product.

Although commercial milk is pasteurized, the process cannot ensure that all bacteria are killed, so it’s important to store your milk in the refrigerator and honor the expiration date on the package. Never let your milk out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours.

2. Allergies: One of the main arguments for drinking raw milk is that it does not cause lactose intolerance or allergic reactions. However, according to the FDA, this is not true. People who are sensitive to milk proteins are unable to drink both raw and pasteurized milk, and should try other options such as soymilk or almond milk. Check back next week for different types of milk alternatives.

3. Nutritional Value: Both raw milk and pasteurized milk have the same nutritional value. They both contain essential vitamins and minerals and are high in protein. Although some studies have shown that raw milk may have slightly more nutrients, it is not significant enough to make a real difference. Raw milk is also high in fat, and does not have a skim, 1%, or 2% option like pasteurized milk does. About 2/3 of the fat in raw milk is saturated, so if you drink raw milk, it should be consumed in moderation.

4. Legal Sales: Looking to find raw milk in the area? You’ll have a hard time! Raw milk sales are illegal in Maryland, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware, among many others. Always check a state’s legal stance on raw milk sales before you buy any.

Milk is considered to be one of the best foods for our bodies. It has more essential nutrients than any other food and is the main source of calcium in many people’s diet. Whichever kind of milk you choose to drink, it is important to follow these common practices to keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness:
• Always refrigerate your milk at 38° to 40°F, or as cold as you can keep the refrigerator without freezing the fruits and vegetables.
• Throw away your milk if it develops an off-odor or taste
• Do not let your milk sit out for an extended period of time

I hope the information Alex has provided us has answered your questions surrounding this very timely topic. Whatever you choose for you and your family, make sure to enjoy at least 3 servings of calcium rich food a day!

Next week we will discuss milk alternatives…. Stay tuned!

Make it a healthy week,

Have nutrition questions for Jane? Leave them below.

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