Humans consumed raw milk before factory farming methods coinciding with the industrial revolution, when large populations congregated into urban areas detached from the agricultural lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Up until that point, individuals and families owned their own goats, cows and other livestock and milked them on a daily basis.
Milk is typically consumed unpasteurized in rural areas of Europe, and raw milk can typically be found in small amounts at stores in large cities.
Production of raw milk is illegal in Scotland. It is legal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the only registered producers are in England. About 200 producers sell raw, or "green top" milk direct to consumers, either at the farm or through a delivery service. The bottle must display the warning "this product has not been heat-treated and my contain organisms harmful to health", and the dairy must conform to higher hygiene standards than dairies producing only pasturised milk.
Section B.08.002.2 (1)
no person shall sell the normal lacteal secretion obtained from the mammary gland of the cow, genus Bos, or of any other animal, or sell a dairy product made with any such secretion, unless the secretion or dairy product has been pasteurized by being held at a temperature and for a period that ensure the reduction of the alkaline phosphatase activity so as to meet the tolerances specified in official method MFO-3, Determination of Phosphatase Activity in Dairy Products, dated November 30, 1981.
However, like the United States, Canada permits the sale of raw milk cheeses that are aged for at least 60 days.
South Carolina, Arizona, California, Connecticut, and Washington allow raw milk sales in retail stores with appropriate warning labeling, or ostensibly labeled "for pets only".
Raw milk may be sold from the farm in 28 states under varying restrictions. In California, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and New Mexico it may be sold in stores. Washington State allows raw milk to be sold with restrictions. Some states allow raw milk to be sold "for animal consumption" only.
Although it is illegal in Indiana, Colorado, Michigan and Ohio for a dairy to sell raw milk, consumers are able to lease part of a cow (a "cow share") or part of a herd (a "herd share") to obtain raw milk. In Michigan, for example, "milk groups" have been formed in which suburban families take turns travelling to a distant dairy farm to obtain the week's raw milk for all the members of the group.
The FDA reports that, in 2002, consuming partially heated raw milk and raw milk products caused 200 Americans to become ill in any manner .
Although agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and numerous other world-wide regulatory agencies say that pathogens from raw milk make it unsafe to consume, certain organizations such as the Weston A. Price Foundation in its "Real Milk" campaign say that raw milk has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process, and that it can be produced hygienically.
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