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Did Raw Milk Cause My Stomach Upset?

Raw, unpasteurized milk may contain bacteria that can make you sick. What to do if you experience symptoms of food poisoning after ingesting raw milk.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
May 30, 2014

Q. "We buy raw milk from the local dairy.  The other day, I had some for breakfast and that night I had gastric discomfort. By the next night I was experiencing nausea and vomiting. I have been drinking raw milk for at least 60 years and haven't been sick. My husband also drank the milk but did not get sick. Is it possible that the raw milk caused the problem or was it just an unrelated stomach bug?"

A. Whenever you consume raw or unpasteurized milk, you are at an increased risk of food-borne infection. The fact that you have been drinking raw milk for years without problems doesn't mean that the next time you roll the dice, your luck will continue. 

See also: Is Raw Milk Safe?

 

Eating is risky; but some gambles are a lot riskier than others.

That said, no raw or uncooked food is 100% without risk. If you eat your eggs sunny side up, you are at increased risk of salmonella, for example. Several recent outbreaks of food poisoning were traced back to contaminated salad greens or uncooked salsa.  It's even possible (but not very likely) that pasteurized milk could be contaminated after it's been pasteurized.  What I'm trying to say is: Eating is risky; but some gambles are a lot riskier than others.

See also: Common Causes of Food Poisoning

 

Tracking Down the Cause of Food Poisoning

Whenever food poisoning strikes, it can be tough to track down the culprit - but raw milk would certainly come under suspicion.  If more than one of the dairy's customers got sick, it would probably move up to suspect #1. 

Which is why, if you ever were to become seriously sick after drinking raw milk, you'd want to report it to the dairy as well as your local health department, just in case. If they get similar reports from more than one customer, it suggests a problem.  If they don't, it will be dismissed as a coincidence. No harm, no foul. 

See also: Why do I Get Food Poisoning When Others Don’t?

 

This is not about getting the raw milk producers in trouble. If they have a problem, believe me, they want to know about it as soon as possible so that they can take the necessary steps to correct it. Although most raw milk is perfectly safe, contaminated raw milk can cause very serious illness or even death. 

Fortunately, it sounds as if your case was relatively mild.  And the fact that your husband drank the same milk without incident suggests that something else may have caused your distress.  I'd probably just chalk it up to a random stomach bug if I were you.  

For more on the pros and cons of raw milk, please see my two-part episode:

Part One: Is Raw Milk Safe? 

Part Two: Is Raw Milk Good for You?

And for more tips on how to protect your family from food poisoning, please see this guide from the Centers for Disease Control.

Milk glass image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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