Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Humans may consume it because they are unable or unwilling to treat it. Health food proponents tout the benefits of raw milk and the ills of pasteurization and homogenization. The medical community warns of the dangers of not pasteurizing milk. Preferences vary from region to region.
Humans consumed raw milk exclusively prior to the industrial revolution and the invention of the pasteurization process in 1864. During the industrial revolution large populations congregated into urban areas detached from the agricultural lifestyle.
Pasteurization was first used in the United States in the 1890s after the discovery of germ theory to control the hazards of highly contagious bacterial diseases includingbovine tuberculosis and brucellosis that was thought to be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk. Initially after the scientific discovery of bacteria, no product testing was available to determine if a farmer’s milk was safe or infected, so all milk was treated as potentially contagious. After the first test was developed, some farmers actively worked to prevent their infected animals from being killed and removed from food production, or would falsify the test results so that their animals would appear to be free of infection.
Pasteurization is widely used to prevent infected milk from entering the food supply. The recognition of many potentially deadly pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and Salmonella, and their presence in milk products has led to the continuation of pasteurization. The Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health agencies of the United States strongly recommend that the public do not consume raw milk or raw milk products. Young children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to infections originating in raw milk.
Recent advances in the analysis of milk-borne diseases have enabled scientists to track the DNA of the infectious bacteria to the cows on the farms that supplied the raw milk.
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Raw vs. pasteurized debate
The raw vs. pasteurized debate pits the alleged health benefits of consuming raw milk against the disease threat of unpasteurized milk. Although agencies such as theCenters for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, and some regulatory agencies around the world say that pathogensfrom raw milk make it unsafe to consume, some organizations say that raw milk can be produced hygienically, and that it has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process.  Additionally, the bacteria found in raw milk are essential to the flavours of many cheeses.