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Consuming raw milk is the latest dangerous trend

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Social media is full of trends related to diet that have dubious claims. The latest diet trend gaining traction on social media involves consuming raw, or unpasteurized, milk, and the trend might have led to an increase in its sales, according to The Associated Press.

"People are seeking raw milk like crazy," Mark McAfee, owner of Raw Farm USA, told The Associated Press. "Anything that the FDA tells our customers to do, they do the opposite."

Despite its growing popularity, experts warn that this practice can be dangerous.

This trend coincides with an outbreak of bird flu affecting cow herds in the U.S., with high levels of the virus found in raw milk from infected cows.

"42 dairy cattle herds in nine U.S. states have confirmed cases of A(H5N1) virus infections in cattle," reported the CDC last month.

While it is not confirmed that drinking raw milk transmits the virus, the CDC advises against it, citing potential risks.

Why are people drinking raw milk?

Raw milk is milk that has not undergone pasteurization — a process developed over 120 years ago by heating milk to kill harmful bacteria.

According to the FDA, pasteurization prevents diseases like listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, Q fever and brucellosis.

Despite these benefits, some social media influencers claim raw milk is healthier.

Popular fitness influencer Paul Saladino, for instance, posted a video praising raw milk, stating, "There are studies in kids who drink raw milk that show they have lower rates of asthma and allergic illnesses like eczema. This is so good for you."

Other common claims state that raw milk provides more amino acids, antimicrobials, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, although these are often not backed by scientific proof.

Per Healthline, the claims revolving around the idea that raw milk is healthier than milk have little to no backing behind them and pasteurized milk has proven to be just as nutritious as unpasteurized milk.

Is drinking raw milk dangerous?

The FDA warns that raw milk, like raw meat, carries a higher risk of foodborne illness due to harmful germs like salmonella, E. coli, listeria and campylobacter.

Per the FDA, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1998 through 2018, there were 202 outbreaks linked to drinking raw milk. These outbreaks caused 2,645 illnesses and 228 hospitalizations."

Food safety experts are perplexed by the internet's fascination with this risky trend.

"Food safety experts like me are just simply left shaking their heads," Donald Schaffner, a Rutgers University food science professor, told The Associated Press.

Additionally, Alex O'Brien, safety and quality coordinator for the Center for Dairy Research, told The Associated Press that since milk standards were implemented in 1924, foodborne illnesses from dairy consumption in the U.S. have gone from 25% to 1%.

"I liken drinking raw milk to playing Russian roulette," O'Brien added.

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