07/18/2014 07:44 am ET Updated Jul 18, 2014

Breaking Down The Pros And Cons Of Raw Milk

Flickr: Raychel Erdmanczyk

There's a lot of gray area when it comes to raw milk, and it has sparked serious debate -- plus a series of court cases. The FDA boldly prints warnings that raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria. But supporters of the drink call it real milk and swear by its incredible health benefits. Even U.S. states don't see eye to eye when it comes to raw milk. In roughly 10 U.S. states, the retail sale of raw milk is legal, in seven states it's absolutely illegal, and everywhere else the law rests somewhere in the middle. In some states now, it's legal to buy pot but still illegal to buy raw milk -- activists have a big problem with this fact.

We're not going to pretend to be experts on the matter, but we're here to provide you with some unbiased facts. Below are the seven major pros and cons of raw milk, from both sides of the line. Then you can decide for yourself what you think about this controversial food -- but before you partake, please be aware that the CDC and FDA are both very much against it.

  • 1 CON: Unpasteurized milk can carry bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.
    Flickr: Brie
    According to the FDA, raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria which are responsible for causing many foodborne illnesses. While supporters of raw milk cite that this is incredibly rare, that doesn't negate the fact that you can become very ill from bad bacteria in raw milk. It's the reason pasteurization was invented. The process of heating milk above 161 degrees helped curb such illnesses as Tuberculosis.
  • 2 PRO: Raw milk proponants claim it tastes better.
    Flickr: Brie
    Because raw milk has not been heated or homogenized -- and often comes from pasture raised animals -- it tends to be sweeter and richer. Some of the country's best chefs, like Dan Barber of Blue Hill, swear by its flavor superiority.
  • 3 CON: More people are sickened in states where the sale of raw milk is legal.
    Flickr: Hella Delicious
    In data combined from 1993-2006, 77 percent of illness outbreaks caused by raw milk occurred in states where it was legal. And 73 percent sickened by raw milk (or its products) directly were in states where it was legal.
  • 4 PRO: Raw milk contains no additives.
    Flickr: Mike Grenville
    Raw milk is milk that comes straight from the udder and is then directly cooled and bottled. Since raw milk hasn't been processed it has nothing in it but the milk that was taken from the cow. For food purists, this is a major plus.
  • 5 CON: Raw milk is especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems.
    Flickr: prairie.mouse
    According to the FDA, raw milk is especially risky for older adults, pregnant women and children. There have been documented cases where children who were given raw milk as a healthier dairy option ended up extremely ill.
  • 6 PRO: Raw milk is responsible for some pretty amazing cheeses.
    Flickr: Susy Morris
    Raw milk contributes to the flavor of some of our favorite cheeses. The raw milk imparts unique characteristics of the land in which the cheese is made, giving it a distinctive terrior.
  • 7 CON: There is no strong scientific evidence that raw milk is healthier, so why risk it?
    Flickr: Raychel Erdmanczyk
    While many raw milk enthusiasts cite studies that claim raw milk can help prevent asthma, lactose intolerance and allergies, those who are against raw milk consumption point out that these studies have been small and inconclusive.

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