- Bear Grylls recently made Armie Hammer drink milk straight from a goat on his adventure show “Running Wild.” The actor reportedly loved it.
- Raw milk can contain dangerous pathogens like salmonella that can make you sick, experts told Insider. This is especially true if you’re drinking it directly from an animal’s body.
- While raw milk proponents say raw or “fresh” milk is healthier, in reality, pasteurised milk has no fewer nutrients.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
On last week’s National Geographic Channel show “Running Wild,” famed adventurer Bear Grylls tracked down a wild goat – and then offered its milk, straight from the teat, to his unsuspecting guest Armie Hammer. The “Call Me By Your Name” star was a good sport, and even said the milk was “delicious.”
Although Grylls and Hammer chuckled over the absurdity of drinking from a clearly disgruntled wild goat, food safety experts told Insider the illnesses you can pick up from raw milk are more likely to leaving your vomitting.
“I would definitely not advise drinking milk directly from the goat,” Austin Publicover, a certified food safety professional, told Insider.
Drinking raw milk can cause food poisoning and serious illness
Milk right from the animal, whether called “fresh” or “raw,” hasn’t been pasteurised, or heat-treated to destroy pathogens. That means it can contain a whole buffet of harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Campylobacter, according to Tamika Sims of the International Food Information Council Foundation.
“Raw milk is likely to be contaminated with dangerous microbes that cannot be smelled, seen, or tasted,” she told Insider. “And these contaminants can cause serious illnesses.” This is true of both goat milk as well as cow’s milk, she added.
Not everyone who drinks raw milk will get sick, but doing so is considered “high risk” because these bacteria cause the symptoms we typically associate with food poisoning like vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. People can experience flu-like symptoms likes aches and fevers, too.
Sims said raw milk has been linked to a rise in foodborne illnesses in recent years, particularly from Campylobacter which, although rarely dangerous, can be unpleasant for a week or so.
Other pathogens in milk, like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria can be more serious, particularly for people who are pregnant or people with weakened immune systems, such as children or elderly adults.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention both warn against drinking raw milk because of these risks. Some states even regulate the sale of raw milk to consumers.
Fresh milk may sound better, but pasteurizing doesn’t remove any of the nutrients from milk
According to Sims, the vast majority of milk in the U.S. undergoes a process called “flash” pasteurization during which the milk is heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 seconds.
While proponents of raw milk say that process makes it less healthy, Sims disagrees. “The pasteurization process kills harmful bacteria. It does not lower the nutritional value of the milk,” she said.
Some people also argue raw milk has a better flavour than pasteurised. While that’s a matter of taste, it’s important to understand that pasteurization is not the same as homogenization, which more likely accounts for the difference in flavour between raw milk and most commercially available types.
Homogenization, by contrast, is a process which breaks down fat and keeps the milk shelf-stable, and also allows for low-fat milk varieties like 1%, 2%, and skim. Most milk in the U.S. goes through this process too.
Some advocates also claim raw milk has a healthier, or easier to absorb, fat content, since it’s not homogenized, but that hasn’t been backed up by evidence, according to The Week.
That said, nonhomogenized, but still pasteurised, milk is safe, and can be purchased from some smaller organic dairy farmers. It’s sometimes called “cream on top” milk because the fats have naturally separated.
Raw milk has also been said to be probiotic, introducing healthy bacteria into your digestive system, but again, experts say the risk of food poisoning isn’t worth it. The CDC recommends getting probiotics from pasteurised, fermented foods like yogurt or kefir.
As for whether drinking milk right from a wild animal is recommended, Sims said definitely not. “The bacteria and other microbes that can be on animal’s teat will pose another layer of foodborne illness threats,” she said. “This should never be done.”