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Raw Milk - Drinking Raw Milk

Milk and your Child's Nutrition

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Updated June 24, 2014

Experts recommend that children should not drink raw, unpasteurized milk.

Experts recommend that children should not drink raw, unpasteurized milk.

Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

Surprisingly, more and more people are starting to drink raw, unpasteurized cow's milk.

Or maybe that shouldn't be too surprising as most people associate things that are raw or natural as being safer and healthier for them.

Unfortunately, drinking raw milk can be dangerous, especially for young children.

Raw Milk

Just as you would have thought, raw milk is basically "straight from the cow," and hasn't been processed or pasteurized. Although most experts consider pasteurization to be one of the most important health advances of the last century, some people think that it removes nutrients and kills beneficial bacteria. They also claim that raw milk can taste better than pasteurized milk.

Is raw milk healthier than pasteurized milk? There is no research to support that raw milk is healthier or, according to the FDA, that there is a "meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk."

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that "substantial data suggest that pasteurized milk confers equivalent health benefits compared with raw milk, without the additional risk of bacterial infections."

Dangers of Drinking Raw Milk

According to the FDA, raw milk can be contaminated with bacteria, including:
  • Brucella species
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Coxiella Burnetii
  • Escherichia coli
  • Enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Salmonella species
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

These bacteria can cause people to get sick, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and headaches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 200 to 300 people get sick each year from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk.

Another big danger of drinking raw milk that some people may overlook is that raw milk is very low in vitamin D. In addition to being pasteurized, processed milk that you routinely buy in a store is typically fortified with vitamin D, which is important to keep your bones strong.

Since young children are at big risk for getting sick from any bacteria that may be in raw milk and they need vitamin D, it is important that you not give your child raw, unpasteurized cow's milk. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that "children should not consume unpasteurized milk or products made from unpasteurized milk, such as cheese and butter, from species including cows, sheep, and goats."

Keep in mind that kids should also avoid unpasteurized fruit juices, including unpasteurized apple juice and apple cider.

Lastly, raw milk is about the same as whole milk in terms of fat content and calories. Experts recommend that children start drinking reduced fat milk, which has less fat and calories than whole milk, beginning at age two, you won't be able to do that if your kids are drinking raw milk.

If you are still thinking of giving your child raw milk, keep in mind that "the AAP strongly supports the position of the FDA and other national and international associations in endorsing the consumption of only pasteurized milk and milk products for pregnant women, infants, and children."
 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book 2006. Prevention of Disease From Potentially Contaminated Food Products.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Consumption of Raw or Unpasteurized Milk and Milk Products by Pregnant Women and Children. PEDIATRICS Volume 133, Number 1, January 2014.

Emerging Infectious Diseases. Nonpasteurized Dairy Products, Disease Outbreaks, and State Laws—United States, 1993–2006. Volume 18, Number 3—March 2012.

FDA Consumer magazine. September-October 2004 Issue. Got Milk? Make Sure It's Pasteurized.

FDA News Release. March 1, 2007. FDA and CDC Remind Consumers of the Dangers of Drinking Raw Milk.

FDA. Questions & Answers: Raw Milk. March 1, 2007.

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