The research team, drafted in from a number of Belgian universities and organisations, examined the risks and benefits related to the consumption of raw and pasteurized cow milk – considering both microbiological and nutritional aspects.
As detailed in their scientific review document, Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits, the researchers concluded that the human consumption of raw cow milk presents a “realistic and unnecessary threat because of its possible contamination with pathogenic bacteria” such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli.
The only way to guarantee the microbiological safety of cow milk is heat treatment, they said.
“It is therefore recommended to heat milk before consumption, especially when served to young children, pregnant women, or any person suffering from a chronic disease or a suppressed immune system,” said the review, which was published in Food Control journal.
Proponent arguments “can be refuted”
In the US, the interstate sale and distribution of raw milk for human consumption is prohibited. It is, however, legal to sell raw milk for consumption within the borders of certain US states, including Washington, California, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Despite well publicized warnings about the dangers of consumption, notably by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumer demand for raw cow milk is on the up - “nourished by the perception that heating destroys the nutritional and health benefits of milk, and can even induce some detrimental effects.”
But these arguments “can be refuted," according to the researchers.
“…the only substantial disadvantage of heating is the change in the organoleptic profile of milk,” said the review.
“It is clear that this ‘detrimental’ effect of heating does not countervail the risk posed by raw milk consumption, namely of a milk-borne pathogen infection, which can have serious health consequences,” it added.
Source: Food Control
Title: Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits
Authors: W L Claeys, S Cardoen, G Daube, J De Block, K Dewettinck, K Dierick, L De Zutter, A Heyghebaert, H Imberechts, P Thiange, Yvan Vandenplas, L Herman.