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Milk Consumption, Raw and General, in the Discussion on Health or Hazard

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In the last decade, consumption of raw milk, milk in general and milk fats suffers from an adverse nutritional and health image and therefore mixed messages are present among consumers. Milk products contain a range of bio-active contents related to health regulation. Heating destroys not only unwanted and beneficial bacteria in milk, but also changes the activity of enzymes and peptides. In this review, attention is paid to the benefits of milk consumption for asthma, allergies and atopy. Raw milk is a single protective factor for asthma and allergies in children. Also milk fat protects against asthma and within the milk fatty acid composition especially the markers rumenic acid and trans-vaccenic acid, are inversely associated with asthma and atopy. From the position of governmental agencies and medical societies, it is not advised to consume any raw milk. It is argued that raw milk can be dangerous due to the potential presence of zoonotic bacteria. In this article special attention is paid to a vero-toxicin producing E. coli. This category of virulent bacteria can be present in the intestines, faeces, skin and environment of ruminating animals. In young children, the physical contact with farm animals as well as raw milk intake are therefore included as risk factors. Another potential danger from the consumption of raw foods including raw milk is the spread to humans of antibiotic resistance forms of bacteria. A differentiation of milk qualities is necessary (produced for direct consumption purpose versus meant for pasteurisation), because part of the population wants to drink raw milk to promote their health. Raw milk is produced in several countries as certified Grade-A milk. Hygienic control of this certified milk demonstrates that the risk of zoonotic transfer can be significantly reduced. Since the evidence has increased that raw milk and specific components of milk are protective for human illnesses like asthma and atopy, a re-evaluation of raw milk consumption as well as the intake of beneficial components of milk from grazing animals is needed.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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  • Journal of Nutritional Ecology and Food Research is an international journal which publishes peer-reviewed articles on food production and consumption, with regard to health, environment, society and economy. The scope is thus broad, articles being focused on significant novel research in human and animal nutrition, food science and technology, food marketing and transportation. In addition, articles on food and identity, agriculture and sustainability, are also welcome. The journal only publishes novel, high quality review papers, original research papers, short communications, concerning all aspects of food and nutrition. It is journal policy to publish special issues on topical and emergent subjects of nutrition and food research or related areas.
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