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Weighing costs and benefits, drinking raw milk is a raw deal

A recent outbreak of illness tied to the consumption of raw (unpasteurized) milk sickened at least 35 people in Wisconsin, most of them children and teens. This has prompted food safety specialists with the University of Wisconsin-Extension to urge consumers to avoid consuming raw milk.

According to Dr. P.C. Vasavada, University of Wisconsin-Extension food safety specialist at UW-River Falls, the current outbreak is tied to the organism Campylobacter jejuni. Milk, like many other foods and the environment around us, contains bacteria, and some can be harmful.

“A recent study has shown that raw milk on the farm could be expected to contain harmful pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Staphylococcus aureus and Campylobacter jejuni,” notes Vasavada. “Pasteurization is an effective means to destroy these harmful bacteria.”

Pasteurization refers to simply heating raw milk to 161