Health Canada Reminds Canadians
about the Risks of Drinking Raw Milk
August 1, 2006
Health Canada would like to remind
Canadians not to drink raw (unpasteurized) milk
because it could contain bacteria that can make
you seriously ill.
Several different kinds of bacteria
that could be found in raw milk, such as Salmonella,
E. coli and Listeria, have been linked to food-borne
illness. These bacteria can lead to very serious
health conditions ranging from fever, vomiting
and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure,
miscarriage and death. Children, pregnant women,
the elderly and individuals with compromised immune
systems are particularly at risk.
Because of these health concerns,
Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk
available for sale in Canada be pasteurized. Pasteurization
kills the organisms that cause disease while keeping
the nutritional properties of milk intact. Raw
milk has not been treated to make it safe, but
instead has been refrigerated at the farm where
it was collected.
Milk is an important food and contains
many nutrients essential for good health, especially
calcium and vitamin D.
Unpasteurized milk has historically
been linked to many serious diseases. However,
the number of food-borne diseases from milk has
dramatically decreased since pasteurization was
introduced in the early 1900s.
The sale of raw milk has been strictly
prohibited under the Food and Drug Regulations
since 1991. Raw milk cheese is allowed for sale
and considered safe because the manufacturing
process for cheese helps to eliminate many pathogens
found in raw milk.
Although raw milk is not allowed
to be sold in Canada, people have become ill after
drinking raw milk when visiting farms. Some dairy
farmers are also consuming milk from their own
animals. While pasteurized milk is now the standard,
there are some Canadians who continue to prefer
raw milk because of perceived health benefits.
However, any possible benefits are far outweighed
by the serious risk of illness from drinking raw