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 below for more information on pasteurization and the debate over raw milk.

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  • Cazaux, Gersende. "Standards and requirements for raw milk products set by the U.S., its major cheese importers and international bodies." July 14, 2009 (Aug. 11, 2010).
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Raw Milk." 2009. (July 24, 2010)
  • Centers for Disease Control MMWR Weekly. "Preliminary Foodnet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food." April 10, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Cianci, Sebastian. Trade Press Liaison, Public Affairs, Food and Drug Administration. E-mail correspondence. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Cohn, David. "The Life and Times of Louis Pasteur." 2004. (July 24, 2010)
  • Debre, Patrice. "Louis Pasteur." The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1998.
  • Feinstein, Stephen. "Louis Pasteur: The Father of Microbiology." Enslow Publishers. 2008.
  • Goff, Douglas. University of Guelph, Dairy Science and Technology Education. "Pasteurization." 1995. (July 25, 2010)
  • Haddad, G.S., and Loewenstein, M. Effect of several heat treatments and frozen storage on thiamine, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid content of milk. Journal of Dairy Science. Vol. 66. Pages 1,601-6. 1983.
  • Lennox, James. "Aristotle's Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origins of Life Science." Cambridge Press. 2001.
  • Lewis, Michael John and Heppell, Neil. "Continuous Thermal Processing of Foods: Pasteurization and UHT Sterilization." Springer. 2000.
  • Mahan, L. Kathleen and Escott-Stump, Sylvia. "Krause's Food & Nutrition Therapy." Saunders Elsevier. 2008.
  • McGee, Harold. "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." Scribner. 2004.
  • Medline Plus. "Immune Response." May 2, 2010 (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Michigan State University Extension. "Milk pasteurization: How to pasteurize milk at home." 2002. (July 24, 2010)
  • National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. "Requisite Scientific Parameters for Establishing the Equivalence of Alternative Methods of Pasteurization." 2004. (July 25, 2010)
  • Rolls, B.A. and Porter, J.W.G. "Some effects of processing and storage on the nutritive value of milk and milk products." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Vol. 32. Pages 9-15. 1973.
  • Sun, Da-Wen. "Thermal Food Processing: New Technologies and Quality Issues." Taylor & Francis Group LLC. 2006.
  • Tauxe, Robert V. "Food Safety and Irradiation: Protecting the Public from Foodborne Infections." Emerging Infectious Diseases. Vol. 7, No. 3 Supplement. Pages 516-521. June 2001.
  • The National Health Museum, Access Excellence Resource Center. "The Slow Death of Spontaneous Generation." (Aug. 4, 2010)
  • The Wall Street Journal. "The Clash Over Unpasteurized Milk Gets Raw." March 30, 2010. (July 24, 2010)
  • Todar, Kenneth. "Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology." (Aug. 11, 2010)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk." 2010. (July 25, 2010)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Foodborne Illness: What Consumers Need to Know." April 3, 2006. (Aug. 5, 2010)