Should My Baby Drink Raw Milk?
8 Of the Worst Myths about Raw Milk and Pasteurization
The Texas Department of State Health (DSHS) recommends that people drink and eat only pasteurized diary products (including soft cheese, ice cream, and yogurt). The DSHS has issued a health alert stating that a person contracted Brucellosis from consumption of raw milk from K-Bar Dairy in Paradise Texas in Wise County. In the course of diagnosing the cause of fever, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue in a Texas resident, blood culture results revealed that the patient was infected with Brucella. Through investigation by DSHS, the most probable source of the infection was determined to be raw cow’s milk which the person had been consuming. Click to read the full statement.
Drinking raw, unpasteurized milk has been touted by some as a solution to just about every various health conditions. There are claims that raw milk can help with allergies, skin health, boost immunity, weight loss, neurological “support” and to aid with digestive issues (including lactose intolerance).
But does it really do any of those things? And what are the risks?
The opposite of raw milk is milk that has been through the pasteurization process. Pasteurization is the process where milk is heated to a high temperature and maintained there for a period of time to kill off harmful bacteria. Bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli can be present in unpasteurized (raw) milk. These bacteria are potentially dangerous in anyone but are especially concerning in young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
But, unfortunately the myths about raw milk and pasteurization are out there … here are some of the worst:
1. If your supplier is careful, they can prevent infection. This is categorically not true. Outbreaks happen as a result of drinking raw milk, even in the most careful and frequently tested suppliers. Raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness.
2. The bacteria that could be in raw milk are no big deal. Unfortunately, serious illness, hospitalization and death occur during outbreaks of E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Raw milk causes 13 times more hospitalizations than pasteurized dairy.
3. Drinking raw milk will protect you from allergies. The only studies that show any benefit in allergic symptoms from drinking raw milk looked at families who live in rural areas and on dairy farms. There are so many other possible factors, it’s impossible to know.
4. Milk has natural mechanisms which prevent bacterial contamination. Unfortunately not. Outbreaks from raw milk prove this.
5. Grass fed animals produce clean milk. Outbreaks have been tied back to both grain and grass fed animals.
6. Pasteurization increases the risk of lactose intolerance. No again.
7. Pasteurization decreases the nutritional value of milk. Pasteurization changes the taste of milk and that’s about it. Vitamin B12 and E were lower in pasteurized milk but milk is not considered an important source of either vitamin anyway.
8. Isn’t natural always better? Many of the advances we have had in science and medicine are related to improvement or changes over substances in their natural state.
Despite all the myths out there (and even if the claims were true), it’s clear that the risk of drinking raw milk at any age far outweighs the benefits.
Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.