Raw or unpasteurized milk

Milk must be pasteurized in order to be sold in Canada. Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill harmful bacteria while retaining the nutritional properties of milk. Pasteurization ensures the milk we drink is safe.

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Did you know?

The number of food poisoning incidents from milk has dramatically decreased since pasteurization of milk was made mandatory by Health Canada in 1991.

Raw or unpasteurized milk

Drinking raw or unpasteurized milk comes with an increased risk of serious illness because it has not been pasteurized to eliminate harmful bacteria.

Health risks

Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria have been found in raw and unpasteurized milk. These bacteria can cause food poisoning and lead to very serious conditions:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • life-threatening kidney failure
  • miscarriage
  • death

Reduce your risk

  • Children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system should avoid drinking raw or unpasteurized milk because they are more likely to get food poisoning.
  • Always ensure the milk you buy from farms or farmers' markets has been pasteurized by checking with the seller or reading the product's label. Avoid buying the product if you're not sure it's been pasteurized.

Cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk

Raw or unpasteurized milk cheese is made from raw or unpasteurized milk. But unlike raw milk, cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk is sold in Canada. These cheeses are manufactured and produced in a way that helps eliminate harmful bacteria that may be present in raw or unpasteurized milk.

Health risks

While it is generally considered safe to consume cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk, it can cause serious health effects for:

Reduce your risk

  • Children, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system should avoid eating cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk, especially soft and semi-soft varieties (like Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses). Eat pasteurized milk cheeses instead.
  • Pregnant women should avoid eating cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk, as well as pasteurized soft and semi-soft cheese such as Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses. Eat hard cheeses such as Colby, Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan made from pasteurized milk.
  • Ensure it is a pasteurized product by reading the product's label or asking the seller.

What the Government of Canada does to protect you

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.

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