Although the nutritional benefits of milk and its products cannot be understated, drinking raw milk can have serious health repercussions. Pasteurized milk is heated at very high temperature and thus the pathogens, including bacteria, are killed in the process. Contrary to popular belief, the nutritional value of milk is not lowered as a result of pasteurization.
Raw milk, which in this case refers to milk obtained from cows, goats or sheep, may contain harmful pathogens such as E. coli bacteria. Should it infect a person with weakened immunity such as children, the elderly or even pregnant women, it may lead to severe food-borne infections. Such infections can be displayed through symptoms including diarrhea, painful abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting. Luckily, one may recover after a few days, but in severe cases, the condition may be life threatening and the person should be hospitalized immediately. Other harmful bacteria such as Listeria may be particularly dangerous to pregnant women because they can cause harm to the baby and in worse cases, may lead to miscarriage or the death of the fetus.
There are misconceptions that pasteurized milk may trigger allergic reactions or even lead to lactose intolerance. However, people who are milk protein sensitive are advised to stay away from milk, whether raw or unpasteurized. In addition, it is thought that raw milk may itself kill harmful bacteria, when in reality it does not. The dangers of raw milk are real and people should be very careful when purchasing milk to ensure that it has been pasteurized. When consuming milk products such as cheese, yogurt or ice cream, they should take time to ensure they have been processed using pasteurized milk. The government is playing its part by placing bans on the sale of raw milk, and as the consumer, we should also play ours.