Influencer advertising: Should you really drink raw milk?


Status: 27.05.2024 16:36

In the USA, the health authority warns against the consumption of raw milk because of bird flu. In many countries, there are already strict regulations for distribution. Nevertheless, some people consider raw milk to be particularly healthy.

Clearer skin, a stronger immune system, better digestion: Raw milk from cows, sheep or goats is often touted as a superfood on social networks. In contrast to heated milk, it is said to contain more nutrients, among other things. Some influencers therefore advise pregnant women to drink raw milk – contrary to all medical recommendations. Is raw milk really much healthier than “conventional” milk?

What is raw milk anyway?

Raw milk is untreated milk that has not been heated. Milk that is sold in supermarkets is usually heat-treated to kill pathogens. This also makes the milk last longer. The shelf life varies depending on the type of heating process.

One option is pasteurization. This involves heating the milk to around 75 degrees Celsius for 15 to 30 seconds. This kills pathogenic microorganisms and the milk can be kept for up to ten days. By increasing the temperature, microfiltration or double sterilization, fresh milk can be kept for up to three weeks.

So-called UHT milk is heated to up to 150 degrees Celsius for a few seconds. This kills almost all microorganisms, which is why the milk can be kept for months even when unopened and unrefrigerated.

With sterilized milk, the heating phase is significantly longer and can last up to 30 minutes. This kills all germs and the milk can be kept for at least six months.

How many nutrients are lost?

However, it is precisely these heating processes that are seen by some websites and influencers as an argument for raw milk – because important nutrients in the milk are lost through heating. However, this is not generally true, says Christina Hoffmann, a teacher for dieticians at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

“The difference compared to pasteurized milk is marginal,” says Hoffmann. Important ingredients such as calcium and other minerals are contained in the same amounts. This also applies to the fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E. The protein content is also the same, as the FDA, the US Food and Drug Administrationwith reference to studies.

Only in the case of water-soluble vitamins, such as B1, B2 and B6, around five to ten percent are lost through heating – even more in the case of UHT milk and sterilized milk, says Hoffmann. The same applies to folic acid. The loss of vitamin C through heating is even higher.

According to the FDA, raw milk does not contain bacteria (probiotics) that are beneficial for gastrointestinal health, as is often described.

Hoffmann says that the idea that raw milk is significantly healthier than pasteurized milk, for example, is wrong. There is also no scientific evidence that consuming raw milk improves the immune system.

Raw milk can prevent allergies

One proven benefit of raw milk is that it reduces the risk of asthma, hay fever and allergies. For example, children who grow up in rural areas and consume raw milk are less likely to develop asthma than children who drink processed milk and grow up in the city.

Researchers at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich One reason given for this is the higher content of omega-3 fatty acids in raw milk. It is assumed that these are converted into anti-inflammatory substances in the body. The fat content of raw milk is slightly higher than that of processed milk, which also affects the taste.

“Of course, it still depends on the genetic predisposition,” says Hoffmann. “If the parents of a child have a genetic predisposition to such diseases, the probability is still relatively high that the child will also get them.” Raw milk is also not better tolerated by allergy sufferers than pasteurized milk.

Possible risks outweigh

Despite the positive effect on asthma and allergies, experts advise against consuming raw milk. There are also health risks, including Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) This is because raw milk can be contaminated with pathogens – through pathogens that are excreted directly via the mammary gland or that enter the milk due to poor hygiene during milking.

According to the BfR, raw milk can therefore be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter or enterohemorrhagic E. coli. “These germs can cause serious illnesses,” says the BfR website. The WHO also advises in its “Ten Golden Rules for Safe Food Preparation” to avoid raw milk.

Vulnerable groups in particular, such as children, pregnant women, elderly and sick people, are therefore generally advised against consuming unboiled raw milk. “However, even for healthy adults, there is an increased risk of foodborne infection when consuming unboiled raw milk, which can lead to mild to severe illnesses depending on the type of pathogen,” says the BfR.

“E. coli or Campylobacter are diarrheal diseases that can lead to serious infections in vulnerable groups,” says Hoffmann. “In healthy people, the consequences would not be as serious, unless they perhaps already have another infection in their body.”

Caution for pregnant women

In the social networks Even pregnant women are advised to do soto consume raw milk. However, experts explicitly advise against this. In addition to the bacteria already mentioned, raw milk products can also contain listeria. These can lead to stillbirths and miscarriages or serious deformities and illnesses in newborns.

Strict regulations in Germany

Due to the health risks, the sale of raw milk to consumers in Germany is with few exceptions prohibitedRaw milk may only be sold by dairy farms directly from the farm. The milk must also have been produced on the day of delivery or the day before. The notice “Raw milk, boil before consumption” must be clearly visible and legible at the delivery point. The responsible authority must also be informed of this.

When packaged in food retail stores, raw milk may only be sold as so-called premium milk. Companies need approval from the veterinary office for this and are subject to special hygiene regulations and controls. Premium milk must be declared as such and is not marked with a best-before date, but with a use-by date. Vulnerable groups in particular are advised to boil premium milk before consumption, as the presence of pathogens cannot be ruled out.

Raw milk cheese is also subject to certain regulations. For example, the packaging must state “made from raw milk”. This also applies to products sold loose from the cheese counter. Hard cheese made from raw milk is relatively unproblematic even for vulnerable groups due to the long ripening time and the resulting significantly lower water content. However, the consumption of soft cheese and cream cheese made from raw milk is not recommended.

It is unclear how much raw milk and premium milk is sold in Germany. According to the Milk Industry Association, however, the proportion is very small. The Federal Association of Direct Milk Marketers and Premium Milk Producers also does not have any exact figures. “There are probably an estimated 20 companies that still market this product,” they said when asked.

number of Disease outbreaks declining

The number of recorded outbreaks of disease in Germany caused by the consumption of raw milk has fallen sharply in recent years. According to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) In 2017, 18 cases with high evidence were recorded, in 2021 only one, and since then none.

“One reason for this is the numerous risk management measures taken at raw milk distribution points. The BfR has also strengthened its risk communication on the dangers of raw milk consumption,” the BVL said.

At a Study from 2019 On behalf of the BVL, potentially dangerous germs such as Campylobacter were found in up to five percent of the approximately 360 raw milk samples examined. Multi-resistant bacteria such as E. coli were detected in around ten percent of the samples.

Warning in the USA about bird flu

In the USA, the CDC has again warned against the consumption of raw milk products due to bird flu. A high viral load was detected in the raw milk of infected cows, and two dairy farm employees were infected with the H5N1 virus. However, there is no danger from heated milk, as the viruses are destroyed by the process. Despite the warnings, sales of raw milk in the USA increased According to media reports increased sharply.

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