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How Pasteurization Works

Food Safety and Raw Milk

The debate over which is better -- raw milk or pasteurized -- is a hot topic right now. Besides being a matter of public health, it's a politically and emotionally charged issue for many people. In the United States, the sale of raw milk is currently legal in 28 states though it can't be transported over state lines [source: The Wall Street Journal]. Here are the highlights of both sides of the argument.

The main argument in support of the pasteurization of milk is that it protects the public from foodborne illness. It's also believed to extend the shelf life of milk while maintaining its flavor, texture and nutritional content. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration take the position that pasteurization should be mandatory for all milk products due to its potential for causing foodborne illness. In her food politics blog, nutrition expert Marion Nestle writes that while she supports the right to drink raw milk, she also believes that raw milk carries inherent dangers of which we should all be aware.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is the most outspoken proponent of raw milk. This organization makes a very in-depth argument for raw milk. It claims that enzymes and other milk components that naturally protect the milk from spoilage and help humans digest milk are deactivated by pasteurization. The group presents research that shows that heat treatment causes significant changes in the nutritional content of milk -- especially vitamin C, some B vitamins and several minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. It also objects to conventional dairy practices and believes that producers of raw milk are much better caretakers of the cows, the land and the milk. The organization also emphasizes the fact that pasteurizing milk does not prevent outbreaks of disease from pasteurized milk.

Whichever side of this debate you take, the type of milk you drink is still a matter of personal choice as long as you live in a state that allows the sale of raw milk. If you haven't made up your mind yet, explore the list of links on the next page for more information on pasteurization and the debate over raw milk.