The Dangers of Drinking Raw Milk

Last reviewed: May 2024

What is raw milk?

Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, goats, or other animals that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria and other harmful germs.

What does the New York State Department of Health recommend about the consumption of raw milk or raw milk products?

The New York State Department of Health strongly recommends that people DO NOT CONSUME any raw milk or raw milk products. Raw milk made into other products, like soft cheese, ice cream, and yogurt, can still cause dangerous infections. The New York State Department of Health recommends consuming only milk and milk products that have been pasteurized.

What are the recommendations from other agencies about consuming raw milk or raw milk products?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical, veterinary and scientific organizations recommend consuming only pasteurized milk and milk products.

What is pasteurization?

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill disease-causing bacteria contained in the milk and has been used safely for over 100 years. Pasteurization of milk became widespread in the United States by 1950. Pasteurization is the only way to ensure that milk products do not contain harmful bacteria. Pasteurization has also been shown to inactivate (kill) the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Can products made from raw milk carry dangerous bacteria/germs/pathogens/microornansims?

Yes. Other foods made with raw milk include soft cheeses, sour cream, yogurt and ice cream. Any food made with raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria/germs/pathogens and consuming these foods can make you very sick.

What kinds of harmful germs can raw milk contain?

Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia, Brucella,Coxiella and Listeria. H5N1 avian influenza ("bird flu") virus has been found in raw milk from cows infected with H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Can these bacteria be especially dangerous to certain people?

Yes. The bacteria in raw milk can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk or eats foods made from raw milk. While some people will have mild illness from bacteria in raw milk, others are at much higher risk of life-threatening illness, especially pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems (such as people with cancer or HIV infection or recipients of organ transplants).

What symptoms can people have if they become ill from drinking raw milk with these bacteria?

Most commonly, bacteria in raw milk can cause vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain, fever, headache and body aches. Some people who drank raw milk have developed severe or even life-threatening diseases, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death.

How many people in the United States have become ill from consuming raw milk or raw milk products?

From 1998 through 2018, 202 outbreaks occurred from drinking raw milk. These outbreaks caused 2,645 illnesses and 228 hospitalizations. The actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk consumption likely is far greater. Among illnesses linked to unpasteurized milk that occurred from 2013 through 2018, 48% (325) were among people aged 0–19 years.

What should I do if I become ill after drinking raw milk or eating a product made with raw milk?

If you or someone you know becomes ill after consuming raw milk or products made from raw milk, see a doctor or health care provider immediately and let them know you have consumed raw milk, especially if you are pregnant or at higher risk for developing severe illness.

Does pasteurizing milk reduce its nutritional value?

No. The pasteurization process does not change the nutritional value of milk.

Does pasteurization cause disease, developmental problems or behavioral problems?

No. Pasteurization has never been shown to cause disease or other health problems.

Is raw milk safe if it is labeled organic?

Only organic milk that has been pasteurized is safe to drink.

Does pasteurization cause lactose intolerance or allergic reactions?

No. Pasteurization has never been shown to contribute to lactose intolerance or other allergic health problems.

Can my dog or cat get sick after consuming raw milk?

Some of the pathogens found in raw milk may cause your dog or cat to become sick.

How does New York State regulate the sale of raw milk?

In New York State, raw milk may only be sold at dairy farms that hold a permit from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Permitted farms are required to maintain proper sanitation, animal health, packaging procedures, routine inspections, sampling and testing. Permitted farms must also post signs that warn that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization.

Where can I see a complete copy of the rules and regulations regarding raw milk sales in New York?

Requirements for the Production, Processing, Manufacturing and Distribution of Milk and Milk Products: Plant Operators (

Where can I get additional information about the risks of consuming raw milk?

Visit the following resources: