Is raw milk dangerous?

Is it safe? What do I need to know?

The rights of consumers to buy raw milk is a contentious issue across the world. The debate among food regulators is whether they are prepared to risk public health by allowing the sale of a food which may be unsafe. Generally safety is given priority over freedom of choice.

In Victoria it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption.

Raw milk has a poor public health record. In fact, milk pasteurisation was introduced in Australia after a major outbreak of typhoid fever was traced to raw milk in Moorabbin in the 1940s. A recent article by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that raw milk was over 150 times more likely to cause health problems than pasteurised milk.

Raw milk may be contaminated by a whole host of disease causing organisms including: Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter jejuni, pathogenic E. coli, etc. These organisms make people sick.

Importantly, the victims of unsafe raw milk are often children who have little capacity to make an informed choice or understand the risks they face.

What is the truth?

MYTH: Raw milk is more nutritious

REALITY:  There is little difference in the nutritional attributes of pasteurised and unpasteurised milk. 

MYTH: Raw milk reduces allergies

REALITY: There is no reliable scientific data to support this position. Raw milk and pasteurised milk may both cause allergic reactions in consumers who are sensitive to milk proteins. 

MYTH:  Raw milk inhibits dangerous microorganisms

REALITY:  A number of pathogenic microorganisms can grow in raw milk.

Think seriously about the risks and whether they are worth taking.