Milk and Milk Product Pasteurization

Pasteurization is a process by which milk is heated to a specific temperature for a set period of time to kills harmful bacteria that can lead to diseases like as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis. Research shows no meaningful difference in the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk, despite claims to the contrary.

While pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-rich milk and cheese for more 120 years, some people continue to believe that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative. Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization from

  • Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
  • Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk's nutritional value.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time,particularly after it has been opened.
  • Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria
  • Pasteurization DOES save lives.

Most milk and milk products sold commercially in the United States contain pasteurized milk or cream, but unpasteurized milk and products made from unpasteurized milk are sold and may be harmful to your health. To avoid getting sick from the dangerous bacteria found in raw milk, you should choose your milk and milk products carefully. The Food and Drug Administration suggests considering these guidelines:

Safe to Eat

  • Pasteurized milk or cream
  • Hard cheeses such as cheddar, and extra hard grating cheeses such as Parmesan
  • Soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco made from pasteurized milk
  • Processed cheeses
  • Cream, cottage, and Ricotta cheese made from pasteurized milk
  • Yogurt made from pasteurized milk
  • Pudding made from pasteurized milk
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt made from pasteurized milk

Unsafe to Eat

  • Unpasteurized milk or cream
  • Soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco made from unpasteurized milk
  • Yogurt made from unpasteurized milk
  • Pudding made from unpasteurized milk
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt made from unpasteurized milk

Most importantly, when in Doubt - Ask!

Taking a few moments to make sure milk is pasteurized - or that a product isn't made from raw milk - can protect you or your loved ones from serious illness.

  • Read the label. Safe milk will have the word "pasteurized" on the label. If the word "pasteurized" does not appear on a product's label, it may contain raw milk.
  • Don't hesitate to ask your grocer or store clerk whether milk or cream has been pasteurized, especially milk or milk products sold in refrigerated cases at grocery or health food stores.
  • Don't buy milk or milk products at farm stands or farmers' markets unless you can confirm that it has been pasteurized.