Drinking raw (untreated) milk or eating raw milk products is "like playing Russian roulette with your health," says John Sheehan, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Dairy and Egg Safety. "We see a number of cases of foodborne illness every year related to the consumption of raw milk."

More than 300 people in the United States got sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk in 2001, and nearly 200 became ill from these products in 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Raw milk may harbor a host of disease-causing organisms such as campylobacter, escherichia coli, listeria, salmonella, yersinia, and brucella. Common symptoms of foodborne illness from many of these types of bacteria include diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, headache, vomiting, and exhaustion.

In pregnant women, Listeria can result in miscarriage, fetal death, or illness or death of a newborn infant. Escherichia coli infection has been linked to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that can cause kidney failure and death.

It is a violation of federal law enforced by the FDA to sell raw milk packaged for consumer use across state lines. But each state regulates the sale of raw milk within their state, and some states allow it to be sold. This means that in some states, dairy operations may sell it to local retail food stores, or to consumers directly from the farm or at agricultural fairs or other community events, depending on the state law.