Raw or Unpasteurized Milk

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The term “raw milk” refers to milk that has not been pasteurized. It is mandatory for all milk sold in Canada to be pasteurized to preserve the safety of the product.

Raw milk may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses, such as tuberculosis. Pasteurization destroys 100% of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and mould and 95% to 99% of other bacteria.

Some people believe that raw milk is healthier and easier to digest because of the “active” enzymes that it contains. These enzymes are thought to be deactivated by pasteurization, thereby making it more difficult for the body to digest pasteurized milk. However, just like pasteurization, the acid environment of the stomach also destroys certain enzymes. But rest assured: these enzymes are not required for digestion, and raw milk is not easier to digest than pasteurized milk.

You can find a number of raw milk cheeses on the market. Although manufactured according to strict guidelines, these cheeses may pose a risk particularly for pregnant women, seniors who suffer from chronic diseases, or people with weakened immune systems. Health Canada also states that soft or semi-soft raw milk cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert or Blue cheese, are more at risk of being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that can cause a serious illness called listeriosis.


1. Brown AC. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation, 4th Ed., Cengage Learning, 2011, Chapter 10, Milk; 214-15.
2. Health Canada. Listeria and listeriosis, [On-line]. []. (Consulted March 21, 2013).

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