Also known as raw milk, unpasteurized milk is milk that has not gone through a heating process as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that kills pathogens, extends shelf life and makes the drink safer for consumption.
As a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw milk may boast harmful germs like salmonella, E. coli, listeria, brucella and more.
Interestingly enough, the sale of raw milk is actually illegal in some states. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund offers a pretty nifty state-by-state breakdown. In Alabama and Colorado, for example, the ban on raw milk extends to retail store sales, off-farm sales and on-farm ones. On the other hand, in California, Maine, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, among others, it is permissible to sell raw milk.
That being said, food safety regulators tend to stay away from the drink.
“Although it is possible to purchase raw, unpasteurized milk in some states, I recommend people not consume it,” said professor Kali Kniel, a microbiologist at the University of Delaware who also explained that when a product is actually contaminated with a pathogenic microbe, the food won’t smell or look different for the most part. So a “sniff test” of raw milk won’t indicate whether it would be safe for consumption.
“There are a lot of people who tout [raw] milk as having all these health benefits, but it’s just not worth the risk because there are a lot of pathogenic organisms that are still alive in that milk, especially if it’s coming straight from a processing facility,” said Dr. Bryan Quoc Le, a food chemist and industry consultant based in Washington state.