Why is raw milk dangerous to health?

Milk and milk products are an essential element of any healthy diet. However, if milk is drunk raw, without having undergone heat treatment, it can become a serious danger to human health due to possible contamination with disease-causing bacteria.

In a scientific review published as early as January 1, 2009, a group of scientists from the College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, USA, included research data that found out what dangers raw milk creates for health.

The authors note that in the USA between 1993 and 2006 there was a two-fold increase in disease outbreaks /an average of 5.2 infectious outbreaks per year/, due mainly to the direct use of raw milk, in compared to the previous 19 years.

In Bulgaria, no cases of poisoning with raw milk have been registered recently, but we still have to be careful and avoid drinking milk before it has been thermally treated.

Milk contamination can occur anywhere along the chain from milking the cow, through processing in the dairy, distribution and storage, the authors of the scientific review point out.

Many pathogens have been found on dairy farms that can contaminate the skin on the nipples of dairy cows and thus the milk during milking.

For example, Salmonella and Escherichia coli bacteria have been found in raw milk. Outbreaks of salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and Escherichia coli infections were reported in the United States in 2005.

Although the sale of raw milk was illegal in 26 states as of 2006, the authors note that opponents of pasteurization found ways to circumvent the laws and obtain raw milk.

Proponents of drinking raw milk directly claim that unpasteurized milk cures and prevents disease, although there is currently no scientific evidence to support this theory.

Strict methods for testing raw milk, which were proposed as an alternative to pasteurization, cannot guarantee 100% safety and absence of microorganisms. According to the authors, this type of heat treatment of milk will remain more the best way to avoid health risk.

In Bulgaria, it is also quite a common practice especially outside the capital to offer fresh milk from street vendors, which makes the above-described health risks particularly relevant at the present time.

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