All milk sold or distributed in British Columbia must be pasteurized. No less an authority that the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, recently discussed why, "in response to a number of letters published in the Times Colonist extolling the alleged benefits and alleged safety of "raw" (unpasteurized) milk."
With respect to the alleged antimicrobial properties of unpasteurized milk, raw milk is not a significant source of lactoferrin. In fact, human milk contains 10 times the amount found in cow milk. Further, cow milk contains citrate, which competes with lactoferrin to bind iron, and therefore limits its ability to act as an antimicrobial agent.
The antimicrobial properties of milk can be marginally affected by pasteurization; however, 70 per cent of the activity is retained in pasteurized milk and assists in keeping the quality of the milk. Milk proteins, such as caseins and whey, are also largely unaffected by pasteurization.
As well, vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B7 (biotin), B12, A and D are not affected by pasteurization. In short, there is no research to substantiate the claims that raw milk has better nutritional and medicinal qualities than pasteurized milk.
Part of Dr. Kendall’s concern relates to the susceptible population to whom raw milk is frequently given. Children.
While adults can assess benefits and risks and make decisions for themselves that I might consider ill-advised, children should not be subjected to these choices. Even the most well-intentioned parents should be aware of the greater susceptibility of children to the pathogens that are found in raw milk, and of the fact that the majority of serious illnesses reported from raw milk are reported in children. E. coli is far more likely to shut down a child’s kidneys than it is an adult’s — as we saw on the Island in 2001 and as has been regularly reported in the U.S.