Raw milk is gaining more fans every day. Advocates say it delivers powerful nutrition and heath benefits and that pasteurized milk is over-processed in harmful ways. But the more popular drinking raw milk becomes, the more doctors worry about the possible dangers. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is warning pregnant women not to drink raw milk at all. Period.
In a report published this week, the AAP said that the benefits to pasteurizing food far outweigh any benefits to eating unpasteurized. In fact, they said that the benefits of raw milk have yet to be convincingly scientifically proven. In other words, pregnant women have everything to lose and nothing to gain by drinking raw milk.
Dr. Jatnider Bhatia, chief of neonatology at Georgia Regent University and lead author of the report, says, "There are no proven nutritional advantages of raw milk. Further, raw milk and milk products account for a significant proportion of food borne illnesses in Americans. There is no reason to risk consuming raw milk.” Harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Cryptosporidium have been found in raw milk. Meanwhile, over the past 10 years in Minnesota, where it's legal to sell raw milk, 17 percent of people who drink raw milk have become ill.
As for raw milk cheese, Bhatia says those aren't any safer than raw milk. The AAP also recommends raw milk not be fed to children and infants.
I went through a brief spell of drinking raw milk. I read all about the possible health benefits (check out Weston Price's info on raw milk). I noticed the difference in taste. And I never got sick. But I have to admit, drinking raw milk made me nervous. And I was especially worried about giving it to my young son. I don't think I would have dared try it if I'd been pregnant.
I think this statement by the AAP is going to anger a lot of people in the raw milk community -- but it probably won't surprise any of them, either. We already know how the medical establishment feels about food safety and pregnancy: Better safe than sorry. There will always be pregnant women who trust their farmers and are willing to take the chance. Many will dispute the AAP's report that there are no health benefits to drinking raw milk. But the AAP's statement does make drinking raw milk while pregnant sound like a unequivocally dangerous gamble.
Would you drink raw milk while pregnant?
Image via Kristen Taylor/Flickr