Unpasteurized milk : a growing public health issue
Master of Public Health
SubjectRaw milk Health aspects Canada
MetadataShow full item record
The sale and distribution of unpasteurized/raw milk is illegal in Canada. Canadian federal and provincial legislation prohibit the sale and distribution of raw milk based on scientific evidence that unpasteurized milk poses a human health risk. The official position of the Canadian government is supported by domestic and foreign government agencies, public health professionals, and faculty at post-secondary educational institutions as well as physicians and veterinarian. The arguments made by groups that support pasteurization are further bolstered by studies published in peer-reviewed journals which cite epidemiological evidence and laboratory findings that unpasteurized milk is a vehicle for food-borne illness. Some Canadian milk producers have found means of circumventing and contravening the current legislation in order to meet an increasing public demand for raw milk. Groups supporting consumption of unpasteurized milk often reinforce the statements made by other raw milk advocates; however their claims surrounding the purported benefits of unpasteurized milk and the alleged dangers of pasteurization have not been scientifically proven. Furthermore, the claims made by raw milk advocates are often contradicted by information provided by the previously mentioned groups who warn against the consumption of raw milk. Based on the credentials of the authors, and the scientific evidence provided to support their claims, the author has concluded that the argument supporting pasteurization and the ongoing ban on the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk is the more persuasive. Raw milk advocates argue that it is the right of the individual to decide what they consume in their quest for maintaining and improving their health and that the government does not have the right to infringe upon the private affairs of citizens. Autonomy is the basis for western culture, and an integral component of a democratic society, however, autonomy must be exercised within the parameters of the law. Many other countries support Canada’s position and have also made the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk illegal due to the potential for the product to carry pathogenic organisms. Some countries however, have legalized the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk. These countries have implemented restrictions and precautions as a means of balancing the consumer’s right to choose what they consume with reduction of the risk that consumption of the product poses. Even though the claims made by raw milk advocates regarding the superiority of unpasteurized milk have not been scientifically proven, recent scientific studies have identified that early consumption of unpasteurized farm milk may reduce a child’s risk of developing allergic disorders. Increased research is needed in order to determine what components of raw milk provide a protective effect on the development of allergic disorders in farm children. Once these components are identified, further research is needed in order to determine how to preserve these factors, while maintaining a pathogen-free product. While this research is being conducted, public health efforts should focus on the development and delivery of targeted educational campaigns that better inform farmers and the public of the risks of consuming raw milk and the scientific evidence surrounding pasteurized and unpasteurized milk.