Health Risks of Unpasteurized Food

The trend in unpasteurized foods could put consumers at risk - especially when it comes to milk products. Here's what you need to know to stay safe

Unpasteurized milk and milk products may contain salmonella, E. coli or listeria

Consuming unpasteurized dairy products and juices may not be worth the risk

One of the greatest advances in food safety is pasteurization, where foods are heated to a set temperature for a period of time, and then rapidly cooled to dramatically reduce spoilage from microbial growth.

In milk, pasteurization reduces harmful bacteria by at least 90%.

New Trend Against Pasteurization

One hot trend has been for markets to offer unpasteurized cheeses and juices for consumers who believe pasteurization destroys helpful bacteria at the same time as it kills harmful microbes.

To the contrary, research has shown that calcium absorption remains intact through pasteurization, and vitamins A, D, riboflavin and niacin are not affected.

Dangers of Unpasteurized Food

Health Canada advises against drinking raw milk or eating foods made from raw milk due to the potential presence of salmonella, E. coli or listeria. The bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous and even life-threatening for people with compromised immunity, seniors, pregnant women, and for children and teens.

Current Canadian Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk for sale in Canada be pasteurized. Raw milk cheese is allowed for sale and considered safe because the cheese-making process helps remove many of the pathogens that may be found in raw milk. Although legally for sale, Health Canada advises that unpasteurized juice be accurately labelled as such and that consumers be aware of potential risks.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.