Raw Milk - Not Worth the Risk

A glass of pasteurized milk is cold, delicious - and safe to drink.

But milk wasn't always pasteurized. Although French scientist Louis Pasteur developed the process called pasteurization in 1862, most milk was still delivered to the door unpasteurized and in uncovered containers more than 25 years later. In 1889, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was devastated to learn that the death of her young son was the result of drinking contaminated raw milk - a common enough occurrence in those days. Determined that others should not experience such tragedy, she led the public movement to have all milk pasteurized. However it wasn't until 1938 that legislation was introduced in Ontario that required the pasteurization of milk.

Medical experts generally agree that raw milk presents a real risk to public health, which pasteurization minimizes. Cases of illness attributed to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products continue to be reported in Ontario. In fact, between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2012, there were 263 confirmed cases of enteric and zoonotic diseases that reported exposure to raw milk and raw milk products. Unpasteurized or 'raw' milk is considered unsafe to drink because it may contain illness-causing bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Campylobacter. These bacteria can lead to serious health conditions that range from illness to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage, and in some cases death. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.

Because of the potential dangers of raw milk, the Ontario government continues to support the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which makes it illegal to sell, offer to sell, deliver or distribute unpasteurized milk in Ontario, unless it is to a licensed plant. Consequently, distribution of raw milk directly to consumers, including through a goat milk share, is illegal in Ontario. You can review the Health Protection and Promotion Act online.

Federal and provincial laws make it illegal to sell raw milk to consumers but producers should also be aware of the potential reputational harm. Whether it's cow or goat milk, an illness resulting from the consumption of raw milk can lead to negative publicity about milk in general and can damage the reputation for quality and safety that everyone in the industry works so hard to build.

Anyone aware of illegal sales of raw milk or dairy products is advised to contact us at (519) 826-4537 (secure line) or send an email to regulatory.compliance@ontario.ca.

Raw milk - it's not worth the risk!

For information on pasteurized milk check out the infosheet Protect Your Family's Health Always Choose Pasteurized Milk.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 25 August 2014
Last Reviewed: 24 July 2017