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Food and Nutrition

Statement from Health Canada About Drinking Raw Milk

Recent cases of illnesses linked to the consumption of raw milk prompt Health Canada to remind Canadians that drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk increases the risk of contracting a serious foodborne disease such as E. coli. The sale of raw milk has been strictly prohibited under the Food and Drug Regulations since 1991.

As of April 15, 2005, there have been four new reports in Ontario of illnesses related to E. coli O157:H7 that may be linked to the consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk. Symptoms of E. coli include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Fever and vomiting may also occur. Most patients recover within ten days, however, in a small proportion of patients, particularly young children and the elderly, the infection can result in life-threatening complications.

Because of these health concerns, Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk available for sale in Canada be pasteurized, which means that the raw milk has been subjected to heat to eliminate disease-causing bacteria that may be present. Raw milk is milk that has not been treated to make it safe and is obtained directly from a lactating animal, usually a cow, and has been cooled at the farm to refrigeration temperatures.