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Publication #FAR8722

Raw Milk Products Associated with Illness1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
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When I was a little girl, my mother made sure I drank milk at every meal “to help me grow,” as she liked to say. Today, nutrition experts continue to recommend that children 4 and older consume 2½ to 3 cups of milk or other dairy foods daily. After all, milk is a nutritional powerhouse, providing protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

But could some kinds of milk actually endanger your children’s health? Raw or unpasteurized milk, which has not been heat-treated to kill harmful bacteria, has become increasingly popular among some consumers, who often believe this kind of milk possesses health benefits not associated with the pasteurized variety. However, no peer-reviewed research supports these claims. More importantly, new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that raw dairy products are far more likely to cause foodborne illness than their pasteurized counterparts—150 times more likely, in fact. While less than 1% of milk and cheese sold in the US is raw, these products cause 60% of foodborne illnesses associated with dairy products (Langer et al., 2012).

Illnesses caused by raw dairy also had significantly higher hospitalization rates than those caused by pasteurized dairy. What’s more, over half of those made ill were children and youth under 20 years of age (Langer et al., 2012).

Although the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in many states, it’s still in circulation in some areas. At this time, however, prominent health authorities continue to recommend against the consumption of raw milk (Langer et al., 2012).

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Langer, A. J., Ayers, T., Grass, J., Lynch, M., Angulo, F. J., & Mahon, B. E. (2012). Nonpasteurized dairy products, disease outbreaks, and state laws—United States, 1993–2006. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 18(3). doi:10.3201/eid1803.111370.



This document is FAR8722, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date February 27, 2012, as program 1888. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.