CDC – Negative laboratory tests to detect germs in raw milk do not guarantee that raw milk is safe to drink. Tests do not always detect low levels of contamination. People have become very sick from drinking raw milk that came from farms that regularly tested their milk for bacteria.
My farmer uses grass-fed cows and goats to produce raw milk, so isn’t it safe?
No. Outbreaks of illness linked to raw milk have been traced back to both grass-fed and grain-fed animals.
My farmer’s raw milk is organic, so isn’t it safe?
No. Raw milk, regardless of whether it is organic, can contain harmful germs. Pasteurized organic milk is available in many places, including supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and dairies.
Is raw milk at the farmers market safe?
No. No raw milk is safe. Look for pasteurized milk at farmers markets and farm stands.
I’ve heard that many organic and raw milk producers are creating sanitary conditions for raising and milking animals. Does this help reduce milk contamination?
Following good hygiene practices on the farm and during milking can reduce the chance of milk contamination – but not eliminate it.
Illness-causing germs thrive in the environment of dairy farms, even if the farm or barns are kept clean and the farmers are careful when milking. Farmers cannot guarantee that their raw milk and the products made from it are free of harmful germs, even if tests indicate the raw milk does not contain harmful germs.
Can I still get a disease from raw milk and raw milk products if the animals are healthy, clean, and grass-fed or if the dairy is careful and clean when collecting the milk?
Yes. Even healthy animals may carry germs that can contaminate milk. Small numbers of bacteria can multiply and grow in milk from the time it is collected until the time a person drinks it. If the milk is not pasteurized to kill germs, people who drink it can get sick.
Methods for collecting milk have improved over the years but cannot be relied on to be sure milk is safe to drink. Raw milk from “certified,” “organic,” or “local” dairies is not guaranteed to be safe. Pasteurization makes milk safe to drink. You can find pasteurized organic milk and products made from it at many locations.
Unproven health benefits of raw milk
Aren’t raw or natural foods better than processed foods?
Many people believe that foods with little to no processing are better for their health. Many people also believe that small, local farms are better sources of healthy food. However, some types of processing are needed to protect health.
One type of processing happens when we cook raw meat, chicken and other poultry, and fish to make them safe to eat. Similarly, when milk is pasteurized, it is made safe by heating it at a high enough temperature for long enough to kill disease-causing germs. Most nutrients remain in milk after it is pasteurized.
Is raw milk a good source of beneficial bacteria?
Raw milk contains bacteria, and some of them can be harmful. If you’re thinking about consuming raw milk because you believe it is a good source of beneficial bacteria, keep in mind that you may instead get sick from the harmful bacteria. If you think that certain types of bacteria may be beneficial to your health, consider getting them from foods that don’t involve such a high risk.
I know people who have been drinking raw milk for years, and they never got sick. Why is that?
The presence of germs in raw milk is unpredictable. People can drink it for a long time without getting sick, and then get sick if their milk is contaminated.