Canada’s food guide advises to drink 500 mL (2 cups) of skim, 1% or 2% milk every day for adequate vitamin D. Fortified soy beverages and other milk alternatives are also suitable if you do not drink milk or are allergic to milk.
Dairy products are extremely vulnerable to contamination by disease-causing micro-organisms or pathogens.
One reason for this is that dairy products are high in protein and moisture; both are needed for the multiplication of pathogens. As the number of pathogens in a food increases, so does the likelihood that someone eating that food will experience food borne illness.
Another reason is that dairy animals (cows, goats, sheep, others) carry pathogens that may also make humans sick. As a result, raw milk (milk that is not pasteurized) can be contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Coxiella burnetti causing Q-fever, and Brucella causing brucellosis. Because of this, it is important that all dairy products are pasteurized.
In BC, milk safety is regulated by the BC Milk Industry Act and Regulation; Section 6 of the Act states "No sale of dairy products unless pasteurized", raw milk cheeses are permitted if in compliance of the Canada Food and Drug Regulations, B.08.044.
Pasteurization of raw milk simply heats the milk to kill the disease causing bacteria — exactly the same type of process as when one cooks poultry or meat. Only vitamins A and D are added to pasteurized milk to replace those vitamins that are reduced when milk fat (cream) is removed to make lower fat milk products. No other additives or preservatives can be legally added to milk. Vitamin A improves eyesight, helping you to see better at night or in dim light and to tell colours apart. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Pasteurization of raw milk has prevented thousands of illnesses and deaths and is one of the great advances of public health of the 20th century.
Raw milk is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine, and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. Heat treatment of milk (pasteurization) kills most bacteria in milk.
Several studies and tests confirm that raw milk can contain a number of disease-causing organisms. The “big four” include Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter.
Many of these organisms can cause severe illnesses that, in some cases, may have permanent effects. In severe cases, illness resulting from these four organisms can even cause death. People with compromised or undeveloped immune systems - such as the elderly, people with certain chronic diseases, pregnant women, and young children - are particularly vulnerable.
It is true that raw milk can be sold legally in 30 of the 50 US states. However, this does not mean it is safe to consume. Regulation and testing will not guarantee that raw milk is safe to drink. All 30 US states where raw milk is allowed to be sold legally have testing and inspection programs for raw milk dairy farms. Despite this testing and inspection regime, outbreaks and recalls associated with certified raw milk dairy farms continue to occur on a regular basis. A recent study done in Minnesota (raw milk can legally be sold in this state) by the Minnesota Department of Health estimated thatup to 20,502 Minnesotans, or 17.3% of raw milk consumers, became ill with an enteric pathogen during the study period. The study also confirmed that enteric pathogens are much more likely to affect children - 25% of cases (patients) who consumed raw milk in the study were less than 6 years old. Of these children, several cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (kidney failure) were reported including the death of an 11 month old infant.
BC is not immune to illnesses caused by raw milk. Even though the consumption of raw milk in BC is relatively small because of our laws on raw milk sales, there have been several outbreaks caused by the consumption of raw milk in BC.
In those cases where children have become ill from the consumption of raw milk, it is often the case that these children were given this product by well-intentioned parents. Regarding the purported 'healthiness' of raw milk, there is no credible or scientific evidence that consumption of raw milk produces any measurable health benefits. Pasteurization of raw milk simply heats the milk to kill the disease causing bacteria - exactly the same type of process as when one cooks poultry or meat. Only vitamins A and D are added to pasteurized milk to replace those vitamins that are reduced when butterfat (cream) is removed to make lower fat milk products. No other additives or preservatives can be legally added to milk. Vitamin A improves eyesight, helping you to see better at night or in dim light and to tell colours apart. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Pasteurization of raw milk has prevented thousands of illnesses and deaths. It is one of the greatest advances in public health of the 20th century.