Health Canada is reminding Canadians not to drink raw, unpasteurized milk because it could contain bacteria that can make you seriously ill.

Several different kinds of bacteria that could be found in raw milk, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, have been linked to food-borne illness. These bacteria can lead to very serious health conditions ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.

Because of these health concerns, Food and Drug Regulations require that all milk available for sale in Canada be pasteurized. Pasteurization kills the organisms that cause disease while keeping the nutritional properties of milk intact. Raw milk has not been treated to make it safe, but instead has been refrigerated at the farm where it was collected.

The sale of raw milk has been strictly prohibited under the Food and Drug Regulations since 1991. Raw milk cheese is allowed for sale and considered safe because the manufacturing process for cheese helps to eliminate many pathogens found in raw milk.

Although raw milk is not allowed to be sold in Canada, people have become ill after drinking raw milk when visiting farms. Some dairy farmers are also consuming milk from their own animals.