Pasteurized and Raw Milk
How is pasteurized milk different from raw milk?
Pasteurized milk is raw milk that has been heated to a specified temperature and time to kill all disease-causing bacteria that may be found in the raw milk. Raw milk can contain Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria and other bacteria. Raw milk includes milk from cows, goats, sheep and other dairy animals.
By law, all milk sold to the public, must be pasteurized. Only vitamins A and D may be added to the milk, no other additives or preservatives can be legally added to milk. Vitamin A improves eyesight, helps you to see better at night or in dim light, and helps you to tell colours apart. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
What are the risks of drinking raw milk?
Raw milk products are reported to cause 150 times more outbreaks and outbreak associated illnesses than pasteurized milk products. Children and younger adults were found to be more affected by the illnesses. Raw milk may contain germs or bacteria which can cause disease or illness. Raw milk from farm gate sales or from “cow shares” are not approved, inspected or monitored by the government.
Some people say they grew up drinking raw milk and never became sick from it. However, public health authorities know of many cases of people who became sick from drinking raw milk.
Mandatory pasteurization of milk has eliminated large outbreaks of milk borne disease in Canada. However outbreaks from raw milk still occur and remind us of the hazards of drinking raw milk.
Who is at risk of getting sick?
Anyone can get sick from the disease-causing bacteria or germs, which may be found in raw milk.
Infants, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with certain chronic diseases are more vulnerable to infection and have higher risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk. Infants and children are at greatest risk because they usually drink a lot of milk.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Only buy your milk products from your grocer or other commercial stores. Milk that you buy must be pasteurized and packaged at an approved dairy plant.
If you live in a rural area and cannot buy commercially pasteurized milk, you can reduce the risk from disease causing bacteria or germs by following this double boiler process for home pasteurization:
- Clean and then sanitize milk bottles. Clean empty glass milk bottles and tops with warm dish soap. Rinse and inspect containers to ensure that all visible soil and soap residue has been removed. Next, sanitize bottles using either heat or chemical as follows:
Immerse the containers in hot water (77°C / 171°F or hotter) for at least 2 minutes. Remove with clean tongs and allow containers to drain, cool and air dry.
Mix 15 milliliters (1 tablespoon) of household bleach into 4 litres (1 gallon) of water. Allow to sit in sanitizer for 2 minutes. Drain and let air dry.
- Place the raw milk in the top part of a double boiler. Gradually raise the temperature of the milk to 74°C (165°F) or hotter, and keep it at this temperature for at least 15 seconds. Stir often to keep all the milk at the same temperature. Note: Overheating may cause milk flavour to change.
- Check the temperature of the milk often with a clean and sanitized thermometer. Put the thermometer about two-thirds of the way into the milk; do not rest it on the side or the bottom of the container. If you find the temperature has fallen below 74°C (165°F), raise the temperature to 74°C (165°F) or hotter and start the 15 second timing over again.
- Cool the milk quickly by putting the top part of the double boiler in an ice water bath. Stir often to make it cool faster. Continue cooling until the milk is at 20°C (68°F) or colder.
- Pour the cooled milk into the disinfected bottles. Promptly put them in a refrigerator that will further cool the milk to 4°C (40°F) or colder.
Under ideal conditions, home pasteurized milk can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Note: Do not use a microwave oven to pasteurize milk at home due to uneven heating of the milk. Use the method described above.
For More Information
For more information on milk safety, contact BCCDC’s Food Safety Specialist at 604-707-2440, or visit the BCCDC raw milk webpage at www.bccdc.ca/health-info/food-your-health/dairy/raw-milk