The Raw Milk Debate

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Touted as being a milestone in disease prevention, the discovery of pasteurization drastically reduced human exposure to harmful bacterias present in milk. However, as popularity and interest in the ‘raw food’ movement grows, more and more people are throwing caution to the wind and are illegally sourcing raw milk from local farmers. Consumers of raw milk argue that pasteurization destroys beneficial bacterias and enzymes and is safe for human consumption provided the cows are grass-fed and hygienically handled. According to US pathologist Dr. Theodore Beals, who testified in a recent BC supreme court hearing on the safety of raw milk,

the pasteurization process is designed to significantly reduce the bacterial content of the milk (including any pathogens). Pasteurization also significantly reduces the number of beneficial organisms and alters the organic substances that are contained in milk including enzymes, immunologically active components and vitamins…Properly regulated raw milk produced specifically for human consumption does not impose substantial health risks to the general public.

In Canada, all dairy products (with the exception of aged cheeses) sold for human consumption must be pasteurized. The Food and Drug act section B.08.002.02 states that, “no person shall sell any dairy product, from a cow or any other animal, unless it has been pasteurized to meet health standards.” Although perceived as a norm in North America, Canada is in fact the only G8 country that does not allow the consumption of raw milk. Non-pasteurized milk is lawful and widely available in 28 States in the United States and throughout the European Union and its member countries. Rather than outright banning unpasteurized milk, these countries have created strong regulatory and monitoring standards for all areas of milk production. If raw milk was inherently dangerous, would it not stand to reason that Canada’s policies would be the rule rather then the exception?

Having grown up on non-fat pasteurized milk, I quite frankly find raw milk disgusting, akin to drinking heavy cream. However, many of my friends have begun to make weekly excursions to local dairy farms to source illegal, unpasteurized milk, often sold in containers marked as dog food or skin cream. The government of Canada is correct in warning people of the dangers of consuming raw milk in our country as there are no government regulations to monitor and regulate unpasteurized milk producers. However, the illegality and lack of safety regulations is not going to deter my friends and other raw milk consumers. Rather than continuing this prohibitionist stance on unpasteurized milk consumption, why not create a legal, well monitored market for raw milk?

Rachel is the student coordinator for the Terry Project and is a 4th year in Global Resource Systems. She can be reached at

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Rachel is the student coordinator for the Terry Project and is a 4th year in Global Resource Systems. She can be reached at