Dairy products are extremely vulnerable to contamination by disease-causing micro-organisms or pathogens. Most dairy products must be pasteurized in order to kill these bacteria.
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 foodborne illness. Also, dairy animals (cows, goats, sheep, etc.) carry pathogens that may make humans sick. As a result, raw milk (milk that is not pasteurized) can be contaminated with pathogens. Because of this, it is important that all dairy products are pasteurized.
Raw (unpasteurized) milk is not permitted for sale in Canada according to federal food and drugs regulations. 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.
Pasteurization of raw milk heats the milk to kill the disease-causing bacteria. Pasteurization is the same as cooking 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.
Dr. Perry Kendall (former BC Provincial Health Officer), in a 2008 article called "Raw milk isn't safe", said, "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."
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.
Raw milk is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. 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" of these organisms are listeria, salmonella, E. coli 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 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.
There is no credible or scientific evidence that consumption of raw milk produces any measurable health benefits.