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Raw Milk: Reservoir Of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes

There is a lot of misconception going around about raw milk being more nutritive and healthy, while in reality it is reservoir of antimicrobial resistance genes. A new research paper busts all the myths.

Nowadays , people are inclining towards raw milk and blinding themselves from the actual facts and dangers associated to it.

People, especially those living in the USA perceive unpasteurized milk as a nutritional and protective source. At least 3% of the USA population, at present consume raw milk and are found to be entangled in the myth that unprocessed or unpasteurized milk has several health benefits over processed or pasteurized milk. Moreover there is a gradual increase in demand of legalizing the sales of milk directly from the farms.

But the truth is, that raw milk is simply a reservoir of antimicrobial resistance genes and leads to severe food borne illnesses (food poisoning).

It has been found that raw milk is a source of bacteria, containing genes that codes for the antimicrobial resistance (ARGs) which has high potential of hampering the functions of human Gastrointestinal Tract.

In addition to the presence of these ARGs, milk is highly susceptible to various disease causing and spoilage causing microorganisms including zoonotic pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella enterica & Campylobacter spp.


Raw Milk: Reservoir Of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes

Recent experiments and related observations about unpasteurized and pasteurized milk reveal that:

1. Raw milk contains high viable bacteria (aerobic bacteria), E. Coli & coliform.

2. It consists of great amount of Pseudomonadaceae (a type of bacteria) which affects the levels of lactic acid bacteria in the milk. (16rRNA gene sequencing led to this conclusion).

3. Under room temperature, these harmful bacteria proliferate along with a gradual and significant increase in the amount of ARGs.

4. Unpasteurized milk contains dramatically more ARGs than the pasteurized milk which gets amplified by spontaneous fermentation. (Metagenomic sequencing led to this conclusion).

India is also one of the countries  where most of the people are trapped in this vicious circle and consume milk coming directly from the farms.


Raw Milk: Reservoir Of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes

My Opinion

Raw milk poses a serious health risks to those with weak immune system, infants, pregnant women and older adults.

Although heating the fresh raw milk at home and refrigerating it at below 4°C helps to prevent the contamination and extends the shelf life to a day or so, but the risks associated with it pretty high and thus it must be avoided.

Because the milk that comes directly from the dairy farms has huge chances of getting contaminated at the time of milking, as well as through various other sources like – unhygienic conditions, diseased cow, mishandling and transportation.

So unless the raw milk goes through various platform tests, laboratory tests including chemical and microbiological tests, it should not be certified as safe for consumption.

No, Pasteurization doesn’t reduce the nutritional quality of milk.
No, Pasteurization doesn’t lead to reduced level of digestive enzymes.
No, raw milk does not destroy the pathogens on its own and poses a great threat to healthy well being.
And Yes, Pasteurized milk is healthy and saves our lives.

Do you buy milk directly from your local milkman? or you purchase processed and packaged standardized milk?

Reference: Liu, J., Zhu, Y., Jay-Russell, M. et al. Reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance genes in retail raw milk. Microbiome 8, 99 (2020). LINK

Read: The Mediterranean Diet 101


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