Milk and Dairy Food Safety: Raw Milk

New Raw Milk Requirements Summary

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. Dairy farms that wish to bottle raw milk for public consumption may do so under certain conditions that ensure the dairy animals, the farm and the bottling facility meet all sanitary and health requirements on a continual basis. Some items are:

  • The farm must meet and maintain the sanitary requirements to obtain a Market Milk Permit.
  • The cows or goats must be tested and found non-reactive to annual tuberculin and brucellosis testing.
  • All farm employees who come in contact with grade A raw milk shall exercise scrupulous cleanliness and shall not be afflicted with any communicable disease or be in a condition to disseminate the germs of any communicable disease which could be conveyed by milk.
  • The bottling facility must meet the sanitary requirements of a milk products plant.
  • It shall, at the time it is delivered to the consumer, contain no more than 15,000 bacteria per milliliter or more than 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter.
  • It shall, at the time of delivery to the consumer, shall contain a minimum of 3.5 percent milk fat and a minimum of 8.5 percent milk solids-not-fat.

The Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch (MDFS) fulfills its mission of ensuring safe and wholesome milk for consumers by inspecting the farm and bottling facility, collecting milk samples for lab analysis, and consulting with the dairy farmer on any issues indicated by laboratory results.

Questions & Answers

  • Q: Is raw milk the same thing as organic milk?

    A: No. Organic requirements are not related to pasteurization. Milk plants that bottle pasteurized milk may obtain organic registration, provided the dairy meets the standards under which the milk may be labeled and/or sold as "organic." Raw milk bottlers may also choose to obtain organic registration. There is no difference in sanitary standards for milk with organic registration than for milk without that registration.

  • Q: Are requirements for raw milk more strict than for pasteurized milk?

    A: Sanitary requirements for Grade A milk to the consumer are the same regardless of whether the milk is raw or pasteurized. The compositional requirement for milk solids-not-fat is slightly more lenient for raw milk than for pasteurized milk.

  • Q: What is pasteurization?

    A: Pasteurization is the process of heating every particle of milk or milk product, using approved equipment, to a specific temperature for a specific period of time to effectively kill harmful bacteria.

  • Q: What is the difference between homogenization and pasteurization?

    A: Homogenization is a physical process that breaks up milk fat globules so the milk fat is disbursed evenly throughout the milk. Homogenized milk will prevent the formation of a cream layer at the top of a milk container. Homogenization does not kill microorganisms. Pasteurization is a heat treatment that kills pathogens, microorganisms that cause human illness.

  • Q: How many raw milk producers are bottling milk in California?

    A: Five.

  • Q: Is it legal to sell raw goat’s or sheep’s milk available in California?

    A: Yes, provided that it is produced and bottled by a facility that meets all sanitation standards and licensing requirements.