Milk can be a valuable food: the high-quality protein, easily digestible fat and various vitamins it contains are good for the body. A trend on social networks addresses the health aspects of untreated raw milk and advises pregnant women to consume it. This fact check examines whether this makes sense.


Raw milk is good for pregnancy and therefore should be consumed by pregnant women.


Incorrect. Experts explicitly advise pregnant women against untreated milk.


Because it is “regarded as having a particularly full-bodied and aromatic taste,” there are people who prefer raw milk, writes the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety – but sends a warning afterwards: consumption is “not safe.”

Raw milk is the name given to the untreated milk from cattle, sheep and goats. It was neither heated to a greater degree nor subjected to strict microbiological control. Due to the lack of heat treatment, any microorganisms that may be present are not killed and can multiply in the raw milk. In order to remove these before consumption, the technique of pasteurization (gentle heat treatment) of milk has been around since the 19th century.

The aim at the time was to protect people, among other things, from tuberculosis, which can be transmitted through milk, explains the State Office for Consumer Protection. To do this, the milk is heated to a temperature of 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds.

Heat treatment of milk protects against diseases

What once combated the spread of tuberculosis could now, for example, prevent the transmission of the H5N1 bird flu virus. The virus is currently affecting birds and mammals worldwide. It has recently reached dairy cows in the United States. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) still considers the risk to humans to be low, it recommends only consuming products made from pasteurized milk and not raw milk.

In addition, untreated milk can contain other pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, EHEC and Campylobacter. These sometimes cause serious infectious diseases.

Multi-resistant bacteria in every tenth raw milk sample

In an investigation commissioned by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), potentially dangerous germs were found in up to five percent of the around 360 raw milk samples examined a few years ago. Multi-resistant bacteria were detected in around ten percent of the samples.

Anyone who consumes them can have problems. Sensitive people such as small children, older people, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are particularly at risk. According to BVL information, the harmful bacteria or germs can trigger acute intestinal inflammation or cause kidney problems.

Why pregnant women are so at risk

During pregnancy, hormonal changes weaken the female immune system. Expectant mothers are therefore more susceptible to infections that also endanger the child. They should particularly protect themselves against toxoplasmosis pathogens and listeria, which are mainly transmitted through food. That’s why pregnant women should avoid raw animal foods, advises the “Gesund ins Leben” network, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Food. These include products made from raw milk, raw meat and fish.

If you are unsure, you should boil raw milk

When it comes to milk from the supermarket, the consumer is actually in safe territory. In Germany it is generally heat treated before sale and is therefore harmless according to the BVL. However, if you buy raw milk from a direct marketer, you should boil it at home. The Lower Saxony Consumer Center also advises this and gives instructions: “It is enough to heat the milk to at least 72 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 seconds. As soon as the milk forms small bubbles and begins to foam, remove it from the heat.”