There are those who favor drinking raw milk to pasteurized and the reasons include that pasteurization alters the taste of the milk but more importantly they say, it destroys much of the nutritional value of milk; denatures proteins, destroys enzymes and vitamins, etc.

Pasteurization involves keeping the milk at a temperature of 145 degrees to 150 degrees F. for half an hour, at least, and then reducing the temperature to not more than 55 degrees F. This process not only kills pathogenic bacteria found in the milk, but eliminates many of the spoilage organisms that give the milk a longer shelf life.

In this brief article I want to point out some of the bacteriologic risks to unpasteurized milk and cheeses.
In the past 20-30 years there have been literally dozens of outbreaks resulting in thousands of illnesses and numerous deaths. This could have been avoided by the consumption of pasteurized milk products.

Some of the main culprits include:

Brucella melitensis– This organism is frequently seen in food borne infections associated with unpasteurized goat milk and cheese. Acute and chronic brucellosis can lead to complications in multiple organ systems. The skeletal, central nervous system, respiratory tract, the liver, heart, gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts can all be affected. Untreated brucellosis has a fatality rate of 5%.

Campylobacter jejuni– Campylobacter jejuni, the species most often implicated in infection causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood and white blood cells. Other symptoms often present are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The illness usually occurs 2-5 days after ingestion of the contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses are not uncommon (about 25% of cases).

There can be complications associated with campylobacteriosis; they include arthritis and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is estimated that the latter is seen in one out of every 1000 cases of Campylobacter.

E. coli O157:H7– This organism has been directly linked with causing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Hemolytic uremic syndrome is likely linked to a shiga toxin produced by the bacteria. It causes a group of different problems (a syndrome) or symptoms in the patient. Though not completely understood, the following physiological reactions can occur:

First it causes the hemolysis of red blood cells. This is due to clotting problems caused by the clotting produced by platelets which clog up the capillaries and don’t allow the blood to flow freely.

Secondly, it can cause kidney failure where waste products build up in the blood because the ability of kidney to filter the blood becomes impaired. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

Listeria moncytogenes– Those at greatest risk of serious listeria infection include pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems (AIDS patients have a significantly high chance, up to 300 times, of contracting the disease).

Most healthy persons show no symptoms of this disease. Initial symptoms of food borne listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, fatigue and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Primarily in high risk groups but occasionally in healthy adults, the infection can spread to the blood and central nervous system where it can cause sepsis and meningitis.

Mycobacterium bovis– General symptoms of M. bovis tuberculosis may include fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Other symptoms may manifest themselves depending on the part of the body affected by the disease: disease in the lungs may be associated with a cough; lymph node disease may cause swelling in the neck; and gastrointestinal disease may cause abdominal pain and swelling, and diarrhea. In rare instances, a person may die if the disease is left untreated.

Salmonella– This is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.