Following an outbreak in the state of Washington, the Food and Drug Administration is warning the public against drinking raw milk, because it may contain harmful bacteria that can cause life-threatening illnesses.
To date, eight illness have been reported in Washington state, several of which were in children, from drinking unpasteurized milk. Two of the children remain hospitalized. A local dairy has been found to be the source of the outbreak, and the dairy has been told to shut down.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300 people in the United States became ill by drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk in 2001. Nearly 200 became ill from these products in 2002.
Pasteurization is the only effective method for eliminating the bacteria in raw milk and milk products. Pasteurization can also prevent such contagious diseases as tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, Q fever, salmonellosis, strep throat, scarlet fever, and typhoid fever that can be spread by bacteria in milk.
There is no meaningful difference in the nutritional value of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk.