RAW vs Pasteurized Milk – Which one is right for your child?

This post is dedicated to one of my mom friends, Danielle. Thanks for making me curious. 


RAW versus Pasteurized Milk – Which one is right for your child?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom


The dairy aisle has been expanding past the refrigerated section. Milk and milk alternatives have been showing up in special paper boxes with a shelf life longer than your cereal. How can this milk stay safe out of the refrigerator, and what other types of milk processing are out there?

Ever since milk has been delivered to our doorstep over 90 years ago, it underwent a process called pasteurization to ensure that there were minimal amounts of harmful bacteria in this nutritious drink. Pasteurization is a process that was discovered and developed by Louis Pasteur, a French chemist who realized that tiny organisms in our food could cause disease. Pasteur discovered that the concentration of these microorganisms could be lowered simply by heating their liquid hangout (like milk, beer and wine). Not only were these beverages safer to drink, but they also lasted longer in the icebox.

Milk can undergo a few different types of pasteurization:

Ultra-High Temperature Pasteurization (UHT)

Now we see packaged milk products, like single serve milk cartons, stored on the shelves at room temperature. These drinks are kept safe by ultra-high temperature pasteurization, which involves heating the liquid to 2800F to 3020F for one or two seconds. The liquid is then packaged in sterile, hermetically sealed container, meaning the milk has no exposure to new microorganisms from the outside air. This milk can stay safe to drink on the shelf for months without refrigeration. Now, some may think that this milk is less nutritious than other types of treated milk. The main nutritional difference between this milk and others is that the water-soluble Vitamins C and B are lost in the heating process, compared to regular pasteurization or raw milk. The Vitamin D content remains the same, most likely because this vitamin is fat-soluble and will not be affected by heat.

High Temperature, Short Time (HTST)

The more traditional type of pasteurization heats milk for 15 seconds at a minimum temperature of 1610F. Only about 99.9% of the bacteria are removed in this process, and the milk is not kept in aseptic packaging. The milk is then safe to consume for about 2-3 weeks. This is the process most milk undergoes in the United States. Again, the nutritional benefits are not completely shot by heating the milk in these processes. It is simply safer to consume.

Photo Credit: kthread via Compfight cc

Raw Milk

Some of my mom friends have voiced a concern over UHT and HTST milk products. Raw milk is never heat-treated. It has been gaining popularity in recent years as people are looking to minimize how much processing our dairy goes through before our tots consume it. Drinking raw milk has some benefits, but also poses some health risks. Even if your farmer’s cows are organically fed and/or grass-fed, the milk can still get contaminated going from the utter to your glass. There are many ways bacteria can get into your milk even if the farmer has a clean work environment and tests the milk frequently: bacteria can get in from the air, the cow’s hide, insects and even the farmers themselves.

Raw milk does have a higher concentration of enzymes than UHT or HTST milk, but research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that these enzymes are not necessarily beneficial to human health. Raw milk is also not fortified with Vitamin D and Vitamin A, important for bone and eye health respectively.

Moms, it’s your choice. Whichever milk you choose to feed your family, just make sure it’s safe – it’s all nutritious. While the UHT milk is convenient, shelf-stable and free of microorganisms, HTST pasteurized milk is safe to drink, while raw milk may be contaminated. For more information on raw milk and pasteurization, you can visit:


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