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Raw milk – what’s the deal?

Raw milk – what’s the deal? 

by Brigid Chunn,  NZ Registered Nutritionist

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurised. Pasteurisation is a process that heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time, killing bacteria responsible for diseases. It is a valuable public health tool.

Some believe that raw milk is better for you, but is it? Perhaps not.

A wide variety of organisms that can cause illness can be found in raw milk. These include bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, pathogenic Escherichia coli (e.g. E. coli O157) and parasites such as Cryptosporidium. The potential risks of these can be life threatening.

There are many claims regarding the potential health benefits of raw milk. Advocates of raw milk say pasteurisation destroys vitamins, and that consuming raw milk can prevent and treat allergies, lactose intolerance and cancer.

However FSANZ (Food standards Australia New Zealand) assessed the evidence concerning the difference between pasteurised and raw milk and concluded there was no significant difference between the two in regard to health and nutrition, apart from the potential for the presence of harmful bacteria in the raw milk.

Yes, there was a slight reduction in the amount of some vitamins e.g. vitamin C, B12 and B6, some loss of enzyme activity and bioavailability of some minerals was also reduced, but not enough to warrant changing or removing the pasteurising process.

Consumers may buy raw milk from farmers registered with MPI (ministry of primary industries) with appropriate labelling stating storage advice, use-by dates and warnings about the risks for certain groups i.e. young children, elderly, pregnant, and those with reduced immune systems.

If you choose to buy raw milk then do so from a registered farmer and follow the guidelines otherwise keep to your pasteurised varieties of which there are many.