Consumers have recently shown a preference for natural food products and ingredients and within that framework, their interest in consuming raw drinking milk has been highlighted, claiming nutritional, organoleptic and health benefits. However, a public debate has simultaneously emerged about the actual risks and benefits of direct human consumption of raw milk. This paper compares the microbiological, nutritional and sensory profile of raw and heat-treated milk, to evaluate the real risks and benefits of its consumption. In detail, it provides an updated overview of the main microbiological risks of raw milk consumption, especially related to the presence of pathogens and the main outputs of risk assessment models are reported. After introducing the key aspects of most commonly used milk heat-treatments, the paper also discusses the effects such technologies have on the microbiological, nutritional and sensory profile of milk. An insight into the scientific evidence behind the claimed protective effects of raw milk consumption in lactose-intolerant subjects and against the onset of asthma and allergy disorders in children is provided. The emergence of novel milk processing technologies, such as ohmic heating, microwave heating, high pressure processing, pulsed electric fields, ultrasound and microfiltration is also presented as an alternative to common thermal treatments.
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