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1. What is raw milk?

Raw milk is any milk (such as cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk) that is unpasteurized.

2. Where can I buy raw milk?

Because raw milk creates a high risk for developing or spreading illness, its sale in Canada is strictly prohibited and Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk available for sale in Canada be pasteurized. In addition, BC law specifies that dairy products cannot be sold or supplied unless the milk has been pasteurized. 

3. I heard raw milk might be the healthier choice.

There is no evidence that raw milk has any health or nutritional benefits (1). In fact the opposite is true. Pasteurized milk is a much healthier choice because you can enjoy all the nutritional benefits of milk without the risk of getting seriously or fatally ill. Pasteurization does not affect the nutritional value of milk (1,2,3). Pasteurized milk has the additional health advantage of added vitamin D (raw milk contains virtually no vitamin D) (4).

4. I always drink raw milk and never get sick.

If you drink raw milk, you may be able to resist becoming ill, but members of your family and visitors to your house may not. Those who are especially at risk for becoming ill are young children, pregnant women, elderly people and anyone with a weak immune system (5).

5. But isn't raw milk easier to digest?

Some people believe that raw milk is more digestible because it contains “live” enzymes and probiotics that can help with digestion. To date, there is no evidence showing that raw milk has a beneficial probiotic profile or is better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance (6). Enzymes that may be present in raw milk are broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach (1) and are not required for digestion(2,7).

6. Why is raw milk unsafe?

Like most uncooked, unpasteurized, and unwashed foods, raw milk can be a medium for disease-causing organisms (known as pathogens) such as E. coli, salmonella, tuberculosis, and listeria. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage in pregnant women. Many people across Canada, including people in British Columbia, got seriously ill as a result of drinking raw milk. While many of these cases occurred before 1991 when it became illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, cases of serious illness related to drinking raw milk are still reported today (8). This could be prevented by pasteurizing milk, just as one would wash vegetables and fruits, or cook meat to an appropriate temperature to reduce the risk of illness from pathogens. 

Check out Real Raw Milk Facts 

(1) Lucey JA. Raw milk consumption: Risks and benefits. Nutrition Today, 2015. 50(4):p.189-193.

(2) Claeys WL et al. Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits. Food Control, 2013. 31 (1): p. 251-262.

(3) Haddad GS and Loewenstein M. Effect of several heat treatments and frozen storage on thiamine, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid content of milk. J Dairy Sci, 1983. 66(8): p. 1601–6.

(4) Vitamins A and D are added to milk in accordance with Health Canada's Food and Drug Act. Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium and improves the overall vitamin D status of Canadians. Low fat milk has some of the fat-soluble vitamin A removed when the fat is skimmed and therefore, vitamin A is added to low fat and skim milk to ensure a consistent level of vitamin A in all milk.

(5) Committee on infectious diseases and committee on nutrition. Consumption of Raw or Unpasteurized Milk and Milk Products by Pregnant Women and Children. Pediatrics, 2013. 133(1): p. 175-179.

(6) Mummah S, Oelrich B, Hope J, et al. Effects of raw milk on lactose intolerance: a randomized controlled pilot study. Annals of Family Medicine, 2014. 12:123-141.

(7) Potter ME et al. Unpasteurized milk. The hazards of a health fetish. JAMA, 1984. 252(15): p. 2048-52.

(8) Kansas State University, Raw Milk Outbreak Summary, International Food Safety Network. Online at http://www.bccdc.ca/NR/rdonlyres/628544F1-0533-48E8-9C96-8391952BEF96/0/RawMilkOutbreakTable2000_2012.pdf accessed Oct 20, 2014

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  • Hi Chris, Thank you for your comment. We are aware that certain US States allow the sale of raw milk. Due to the risk for the most vulnerable in our population (such as babies and older adults), Canadian public... more
    Hi Chris, Thank you for your comment. We are aware that certain US States allow the sale of raw milk. Due to the risk for the most vulnerable in our population (such as babies and older adults), Canadian public health agencies are simply not willing to take the risk of raw milk sales here in Canada. less
  • I live in los angeles california and i drink raw milk every single day. They sell it at a large chain called Sprouts. The main chains safeway and ralphs carry started to carry raw cheese now as well. People are... more
    I live in los angeles california and i drink raw milk every single day. They sell it at a large chain called Sprouts. The main chains safeway and ralphs carry started to carry raw cheese now as well. People are realizing it is healthier and very safe. The dairy just needs to have clean practices and precautions as with any other food. If big stores in lawyer filled LA are selling it then it must be extremely safe! less
  • Thank you for raising the concern of foodborne illnesses Kris. You're right, foodborne illnesses occur much more often with other foods, such as vegetables or meat. However, when you look at total milk consumpt... more
    Thank you for raising the concern of foodborne illnesses Kris. You're right, foodborne illnesses occur much more often with other foods, such as vegetables or meat. However, when you look at total milk consumption trends, the majority of the general population consumes pasteurized milk, even in places where raw milk is commercially available. As a result, the amount of foods such as vegetables and meat consumed is significantly higher than the amount of raw milk consumed, which explains the difference in foodborne illnesses incidents. So, when you're comparing the risk of foodborne illnesses from other foods to milk, you are still comparing it mostly to pasteurized milk, a very low risk food. Additionally, foods such as vegetables and meat require more handling before they are ready to eat. For example, vegetables need to be thoroughly washed and meat/eggs need to be cooked. Pasteurization on the other hand allows milk to be safely consumed as is. This simple process helps reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses from milk, especially for the most vulnerable populations like infants, pregnant women and elderly. less
  • Dr. Beals used US government data from the CDC and proved that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk. This was based on the population that... more
    Dr. Beals used US government data from the CDC and proved that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk. This was based on the population that actually drinks raw milk. less
  • Thank you for your comments Will. It was because of safety concerns that the sale of raw milk in BC has not been permitted since the 1980s. Unfortunately there are still many examples of the consequences of raw... more
    Thank you for your comments Will. It was because of safety concerns that the sale of raw milk in BC has not been permitted since the 1980s. Unfortunately there are still many examples of the consequences of raw milk consumption in countries/States where it is legal. You can refer to http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/ for some of these examples. You're right, foodborne illness can occur as a result of vegetable or meat consumption due to improper washing, handling or cooking. However, milk is a product that is typically consumed as is, whereas vegetables are meant to be washed before they're eaten raw and meat is typically cooked through. That is why the simple process of milk pasteurization has been implemented to reduce public health risk, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Although we do not make the laws, we stand by them to ensure everyone in BC are able to consume a safe and nutritious product. less
  • The law that prohibits the sale of raw milk is not of these times anymore. Yes, there MIGHT be a little risk in drinking raw milk, but there is also risk in eating other foods like greens and meats. How many ti... more
    The law that prohibits the sale of raw milk is not of these times anymore. Yes, there MIGHT be a little risk in drinking raw milk, but there is also risk in eating other foods like greens and meats. How many times have there been recalls from these "safe" foods been over the past years? Raw milk is a SAFE food, as long as it is been used properly. Store it in the fridge, make sure where it comes from is clean and just enjoy it. It is time to get rid of this, there are tons of countries where raw milk sales is the most normal thing there is. The Netherlands for instance does allow the sale of raw milk. Ever heard of big problems there? No, didn't think so. So why not just regulate the sale of raw milk? less
  • Very well written article. It will be helpful to anyone who uses it, as well as yours truly.
  • Thanks for your comments Meron. We appreciate consumers who care about how their food is produced and marketed. Health Canada made milk pasteurization mandatory in 1991. Since then there has been a dramatic ... more
    Thanks for your comments Meron. We appreciate consumers who care about how their food is produced and marketed. Health Canada made milk pasteurization mandatory in 1991. Since then there has been a dramatic decrease in food poisoning incidents. More information is available from Health Canada on their website: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/safety-salubrite/raw-milk-lait-cru-eng.php Marketing boards, in dairy and other commodities, play a vital role to ensure that Canadians continue to enjoy safe, abundant food at affordable prices. For more information check out http://www.dairyfarmers.ca/what-we-do/supply-management less
  • My grandfather John Sembaliuk was a dairy farmer and a strong supporter of laws forcing Canadians to buy only "certified" pasturized milk. That way the small farmers couldn't undercut the collusion of the dair... more
    My grandfather John Sembaliuk was a dairy farmer and a strong supporter of laws forcing Canadians to buy only "certified" pasturized milk. That way the small farmers couldn't undercut the collusion of the dairy boards and erode the artificially high price of milk and milk products. My Grandfather was the very first secretary of the Canadian Wheat Board and was active in the Alberta Dairy board and cattle associations. The reason was to collectively force the consumer to buy agricultural products from only a few sources, thereby price fixing and making sure farmers got a fair price for milk and other agricultural products. Like OPEC colludes to force an artificially high price for oil, the dairy boards, wheat board, etc. accomplish the same. It is not good enough to have a farmer say his milk is pasturized for him to be able to sell it. The pasturization process needs to be certified, and only certain facilities are given the licence and certification to Pasturize milk which can only then be sold. Pasturization is traditionally done by baking raw milk in the oven; something that's been done for thousands of years. In fact, I have ceramic milk jugs that were used by my great, great grand father and brought to Canada from Europe over 100 years ago, the jugs were made long before Louise Pasture discovered why boiling milk worked to keep the milk fresh for a longer period of time. Also, raw milk is needed to make cheeze. If the masses can't get raw milk, they can't make their own quality cheeze, again forcing them to buy quality cheese from the larger companies maintaining the price fixing system. Health issues as an excuse to ban the sale of raw milk? That is a farce. Drinking raw milk is less dangerous than eating raw meat or fish, yet We have steak Tatar in thousands of resteraunts, sushi bars, etc. I don't drink raw milk because I don't like the taste and the chances of getting sick are higher, but I wish I could buy it to make my own cheeze. I wish farmer's could sell their own pasturized milk, just Like micro brewers can sell their own beer. The difference in taste and quality between one milk produced by one farmer and milk produced by another is like the differece between wine from one vinyard to that of another. The time for the big unions, collusion and government control has changed. We still need dairy boards to ensure economies of scale, but not at the expense of creativity, artisans, and the resourcefullness of the individual, nevermind freedom. This same economic principle of collusion was used by the big brewing companies to control the manufacturing and sale of beer. Remembr when the bottles all said "Union Made"? That collusion went by the wayside and now we have hundreds and hundreds of new micro brewers brands to choose from. Ironically, Tobacco is so controlled that farmers even need permission to transport it. This is price fixing at its best. Now that tobacco is known to be dangerous, perhaps the government should make a law that only tobacco which is pasturized should be allowed to be sold. Meron Sembaliuk iMBA Victoria Canada less
  • Thank you for your comments Amanda. Regarding your concern about Elsevier, it is a publishing house that produces over 2,900 scholarly journals. Their mission includes a commitment to “transforming and advanc... more
    Thank you for your comments Amanda. Regarding your concern about Elsevier, it is a publishing house that produces over 2,900 scholarly journals. Their mission includes a commitment to “transforming and advancing science, health and technology”. As such, we feel confident citing the above study, published in the journal "Nutrition Research". Canadian dairy farmers produce milk according to very high quality standards. Even with modern advances in farm management, and the processing and distribution of milk, drinking raw milk continues to expose people to risk. You can find out more about these risks and recent cases of illness on the CDC website, as some US states still permit the sale of raw milk: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html. As mentioned in the above posts, the rationale for not permitting the sale of raw milk in Canada is one of public health, implemented to protect the most vulnerable populations (including young children) who cannot always make informed decisions for themselves. less
  • I agree with Jamie. For the other readers, the "scientific data" provided in response to Jamie's comment is a study done by a company called Elsevier Inc. Do a quick search on them and decide for yourself if yo... more
    I agree with Jamie. For the other readers, the "scientific data" provided in response to Jamie's comment is a study done by a company called Elsevier Inc. Do a quick search on them and decide for yourself if you think their information is credible. The production of pasteurized milk started in the early 1900's when there was a large outbreak of disease from Raw Milk consumption, but this was due to unsafe production and distribution methods that were being practiced at the time. You can read all about it on wikipedia or if you hate reading, you can learn more from the documentary called Farmaggedon. Governments and Corporations should absolutely spend there money to provide the public with scientific research information about the two types of products, but they should also educate farms on safe production and distribution of BOTH raw and pasteurized milk. Canadians should be allowed to make their own healthy food choices. So if you want to drink Raw Milk, you should be allowed. And if you want to drink Pasteurized milk, you should also be allowed. My point being, I came to this website to find out where I might be able to get some Raw Milk because I cannot stomach pasteurized milk and have been using organic almond milk for the last few years. I am in disbelief to find out that it is against the law across the country that we cannot make our decisions as to what we would like to consume. Simply Appalling. less
  • Hi Jaime, Thank you for your comment on our website. Regarding fat absorption, the opposite is true. The smaller particle size of fat in homogenized milk make it easier for digestive enzymes to digest the fa... more
    Hi Jaime, Thank you for your comment on our website. Regarding fat absorption, the opposite is true. The smaller particle size of fat in homogenized milk make it easier for digestive enzymes to digest the fat. (In fact, very low birthweight infants fed homogenized human milk excrete less fat in their stool. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531799000159]). Nevertheless, if you wish to buy unhomogenized milk today, you certainly can. In BC, this is often called 'standard' milk. It will be a full-fat, pasteurized milk. You can get this from Avalon Dairy. Regarding calcium absorption, if anything the absorption of calcium will be better from pasteurized milk—not because of the pasteurization, but because vitamin D has been added. Raw milk contains insignificant vitamin D, and vitamin D has a major influence on improving calcium absorption. Lastly, this video may help to clear up some misinformation about milk in Canada. http://youtu.be/JWw_P_CH638 less
  • This is more propaganda from a government that feeds on fear and control of it's citizens...Studies have shown that children from dairy farms have better immune systems and less allergies. The fact is that whe... more
    This is more propaganda from a government that feeds on fear and control of it's citizens...Studies have shown that children from dairy farms have better immune systems and less allergies. The fact is that when milk is pasteurized and homogenized the fat molecules are removed from the milk and the milk solids injected back into the milk in tiny molecules to prevent the cream tops that you might remember as a kid when milk was delivered to your home. The problem with this is that the solids are broken down so much that your body doesn't have time to break them down so much because they pass through your system too quickly so the only benefit that you get is the added Vitamin D which you could just as easily obtain from taking a supplement. The calcium benefits of whole raw milk are far better than the shelf products as well. less

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