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Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Jan 1;48(1):93-100. doi: 10.1086/595007.

Food safety: unpasteurized milk: a continued public health threat.

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  • 1Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, Ohio 44691, USA.


Although milk and dairy products are important components of a healthy diet, if consumed unpasteurized, they also can present a health hazard due to possible contamination with pathogenic bacteria. These bacteria can originate even from clinically healthy animals from which milk is derived or from environmental contamination occurring during collection and storage of milk. The decreased frequency of bovine carriage of certain zoonotic pathogens and improved milking hygiene have contributed considerably to decreased contamination of milk but have not, and cannot, fully eliminate the risk of milkborne disease. Pasteurization is the most effective method of enhancing the microbiological safety of milk. The consumption of milk that is not pasteurized increases the risk of contracting disease from a foodstuff that is otherwise very nutritious and healthy. Despite concerns to the contrary, pasteurization does not change the nutritional value of milk. Understanding the science behind this controversial and highly debated topic will provide public health care workers the information needed to discern fact from fiction and will provide a tool to enhance communication with clients in an effort to reduce the incidence of infections associated with the consumption of unpasteurized milk and dairy products.

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