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Apr 9, 2024

Over 200 years ago Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France. Among Pasteur's major contributions and their benefit to society, the most important is the heat treatment of foods and beverages to reduce spoilage and eliminate pathogens for consumers.

Probably the greatest achievement of Pasteur was the process that bears the name of this famous scientist who perfected the technique: pasteurization. For liquids, this process does not involve boiling the product to sterility but simply applying just enough heat (ie, par-boiling) to 50–60°C for a specified period to reduce spoilage microbes and potential pathogens. Pathogenic microbes have a lower heat tolerance than most other bacteria. Recognizing that many individuals, from the highly educated to the peasantry, were aware of the effect, it took someone like Pasteur to formalize this knowledge into specific time-temperature standards to assure consistency. 


Unpasteurized foods are sold even though they have not been treated with high temperatures. Foods that haven’t been pasteurized include: 

  • raw milk
  • some artisanal cheeses
  • some unpasteurized versions of juices and meats

Many food safety concerns and a high risk of foodborne illness are associated with eating unpasteurized foods, although there may be a few benefits.

Still, evidence indicates that the health risks appear to outweigh any potential benefits in most cases.

Here are the benefits and downsides of unpasteurized food products.

Benefits of eating unpasteurized foods

Unpasteurized food is more likely to retain its organoleptic properties and may sometimes have greater nutritional value. The term “organoleptic properties” refers to the food’s taste, appearance, and smell.

Exposure to high temperatures during pasteurization not only kills harmful bacteria and viruses in foods. It may also negatively affect the nutritional quality, appearance, and flavor of the food.

For instance, some research demonstrated that pasteurization reduced the protective antibodies and immune-supportive vitamin C and zinc in donor human milk. 

However, other research shows that these nutrient losses in human milk are minor and that the benefits of pasteurization are greater than the risks. 

Downsides of eating unpasteurized foods

Unpasteurized foods are associated with the occurrence of foodborne illnesses from bacteria, such as BrucellaCryptosporidiumListeria monocytogenes, and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

In particular, scientific literature frequently mentions that unpasteurized milk and dairy products are particularly high risk foods and common causes of these foodborne illnesses. 

These bacterial infections may last from days to weeks. Effects range from mild symptoms — like fever, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches, abdominal pain, and poor appetite — to severe outcomes like miscarriage and even death. 

Unpasteurized foods present even greater health risks and are more dangerous to people with compromised immune systems, such as older adults, pregnant people, young children, and those with health conditions like cancer.


Unpasteurized foods are slightly more likely to retain natural tastes, appearances, flavors, and nutrients, but they are strongly associated with foodborne illnesses. Evidence indicates that the risks of consuming unpasteurized foods greatly outweigh the benefits, especially for immune-compromised people.  (CREDITS)