I’ve been getting a lot of emails on the topic of “How Safe Is Kefir?” so I’m dedicating this post to answering it.
If you’re new to kefir and haven’t consumed homemade kefir, much less made kefir from kefir grains at home yourself, you’re probably wondering as to how safe kefir is for yourself, for your kids, for your family and for your friends.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
In general kefir is safe. Many people have and are still making and drinking homemade kefir. And there are little to none reported events regarding food borne illnesses and kefir.
But if you want a more detailed explanation, continue reading…
In the past, making fermented Kefir was actually a traditional way of preserving milk. This was of course before the invention of the mighty refrigerator. And it is this fermentation process that makes fermented foods safe for us to eat. But don’t take my word for it… take the NCHFP’s:
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation:
Fermented foods are generally considered to be less likely to cause foodborne illness due to the fermentation process. The competitive activity and metabolites of the culture help to – partially or completely — kill or inhibit the growth of illness-causing microorganisms.
Scientific research has shown that properly fermented kefir at a pH less than 4.5 inhibits most pathogens. But not for Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., and Yersinia enterocolitica.
Does this mean kefir is not safe? Yes and no. You can make kefir a lot safer by doing the following:
- Use quality milk from a reputable source
There is a lot of debate going on right now on raw milk versus pasteurized milk, so I really won’t go into that. All I can say is, if you really really really want to be on the safe side, pasteurized milk is the way to go.
- Use quality kefir grains from a reputable source
This is the second part of the kefir equation. Your kefir grains should be from someone who has had experience taking care of it.
Another way of making sure that your kefir is 100% SAFE, is by pasteurizing the kefir itself. Now, I don’t really recommend this because once you kill the “bad” bacteria that may be present in kefir, you’re most likely going to be killing the good ones as well. And i feel this just completely ruins the kefir. But if you’re happy with just the taste of the kefir and not the probiotic benefits, here are the steps for pasteurized kefir:
- Strain and remove kefir grains from kefir
- Place the jar (w/out lid) of kefir in hot water bath
- Stir keifer while heating to161degF or 72degC (use thermometer)
- Hold at this temperature while stirring for around 15 seconds
- Remove kefir jar from hot water bath
- Cool in cold water bath
- Place in refrigerator (shelf-life of 7-10days)
Again, pasteurized kefir will not have the probiotic health benefits of unpasteurized kefir, but it will still have the taste. On a sidenote, this is also why commercial kefir is not as healthy as homemade kefir. Commercial kefir goes through pasteurization that kills all the probiotic kefir goodness.
Summing up, my suggestion is this…
If you’ve been drinking homemade kefir for a very long time and have nothing but awesome and wonderful benefits from drinking it, by all means continue doing so.
If however, it’s going to be your first time why not try a little first?
Lastly (promise this is the last), it’s been said that because of the tiny risk of pathogen growth in home fermented kefir, it is not recommended for people with weak immune systems like, very young kids, the elderly, pregnant women, chronically ill, etc. etc. etc.
Is this true? Again, maybe… maybe not.
We’ve had readers and commentors and friends who were one of the above and have been loving kifer ever since. But again, don’t take my word for it. Everyone’s body system is different and ultimately how we react to kefir depends on it as well.