The Raw Truth About Raw Milk

Credit: albionmich.com

Louis Pasteur must be rolling over in his grave.  As you probably remember from your high school Biology class, he was the Frenchman who invented a method of preserving food and drink by submitting them to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time and then cooling them off rapidly.  Prior to the days of pasteurization, drinking milk could make you very sick, or in some cases, prove fatal.  Fast forward to 2011 and a debate is raging in some circles over the supposed health benefits of raw milk vs the pasteurized form.  Read on to find out the raw truth about raw milk. 

For starters, exactly what are we talking about here?  Just what is raw milk?  It is simply milk from cows, goats, sheep, or other animals that has not been pasteurized.  It is estimated that less than 1% of all milk sold in the US is sold raw.  OK, so how bad can it be?  What are the dangers of drinking raw milk?  Raw milk can harbor large amounts of pathogenic organisms that can lead to sickness, or in some cases, death.  It can be particularly dangerous to the very young, the very old and the immunocompromised.  A partial list of potential pathogens is as follows:  bacteria such as Brucella, Camplyobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella and shiga toxin producing E. coli., parasites such as Giardia and viruses such as the norovirus.

How does the milk become contaminated?  Does it come out of the animal with all this stuff in it?  Some of the contamination comes from the environment in the form of feces, dirt or unsanitary processing equipment.  Some of it can come from insects, rodents or other animal vectors.  Other sources of contamination can be bacteria that live on the skin of the animal or infection of the udders (mastitis).  Cross contamination from humans is possible from clothing or boots.

All of this may have you wondering why people are rushing in record numbers to buy raw milk.  This is despite the fact that it is illegal to buy in several states in the US and can only be sold as pet food in some others.  Retail sales of raw milk are only legal in 10 states.  See here.

In the European Union, all raw milk products are legal and considered safe for human consumption. The individual countries are free to add certain requirements, such as special sanitary regulations, and frequent quality tests are mandatory. The sale of raw milk for drinking purposes is illegal in all states and territories in Australia.

Raw milk advocates claim that that the unpasteurized stuff contains natural enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are removed during the pasteurization process.  They also often claim that it just tastes better.  A website by the name of Raw Milk Truth offers these anecdotes:

“A lovely lady and her family stopped by on their way passing through town. She had been drinking raw milk for years and her chronic arthritis had disappeared. However, on her recent 3-month vacation she had not been able to find any farms nearby where she could buy raw milk. During that time her arthritis came back full force. She related this story to me when she stopped by our farm to pick up some raw milk on her way back home.

Another case in point is a woman who had been trying to get pregnant for years and having no luck. She became pregnant 6 months after beginning to drink raw milk.”

Please feel free to judge the merits of these statements for yourselves without further comment from me.

One of the health claims of raw milk is that it contains more enzymes and nutrients than pasteurized milk.  This is true.  The process that makes the milk safer to drink also inactivates certain enzymes and nutrients.  Before I go on, I’d like to note that enzymes in milk do not make a major contribution to the digestion of milk in humans.  That is accomplished by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine.

Lipases are enzymes that degrade fats.  The major lipase in milk is lipoprotein lipase.  Pasteurization will inactivate the lipase in milk and increase its shelf life.  Proteases are enzymes that degrade proteins.  Certain proteases are inactivated by heat and others are not.  Protein degradation may be undesirable in that it may result in bitter or off flavors in the milk.  Lactoperoxidase is one of the most heat stable enzymes found in milk.  It has been suggested that the presence of lactoperoxidase in raw milk inhibits pathogen growth.  However, since lactoperoxidase only has antimicrobial properties when combined with hydrogen peroxide and thiocyanate, these chemicals would have to be added to milk to show any of that type of benefit.

Some nutrients, such as vitamins B and C, are somewhat destroyed by the pasteurization process.  However, a typical healthy diet contains more than enough of these nutrients to make up the difference.  Vitamins D, K and E are not altered by pasteurization.

So, what have we learned?  There is no doubt that drinking pasteurized milk is healthful for most people.  It is full of is full of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous and a balance of other nutrients that have been proven to build your bones and teeth as well as promote the healthy function of your muscles and blood vessels.  There is also no doubt that it is very possible for raw milk to be contaminated with pathogens that can make you very ill. You can’t look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.  Please consider these facts before you play Russian roulette with your health.

About Guy McCardle

Guy McCardle is an American science writer and skeptic. He is a certified Infection Prevention Specialist and served proudly as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A devoted father and husband, he offers his unique viewpoints regarding science and the public interest.
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57 Responses to The Raw Truth About Raw Milk

  1. Craig Good says:

    Many years ago I had a glass of raw milk. It was at a modern, well-run dairy ranch, and the milk that came out of the fridge had been in a cow just a couple of hours before. I can tell you that it was, far and away, the best tasting glass of milk I ever had in my life.

    Or ever will have, because I wouldn’t dream of drinking raw milk except under such an unusual circumstance. Even then, I know I run an increased risk.

    Taste aside, I don’t see any evidence for the exaggerated health claims. They all sound like the naturalistic fallacy to me. Make mine pasteurized!

  2. Eclogite_ATX says:

    My 73 year old mother swears by raw milk. I’ve sent her a YouTube video by C0nc0rdance on the subject along with some other information, but she insists that it makes her feel better. Yeah, the full-fat stuff tastes heavenly to my normally fat-free taste buds, but I don’t share her belief in the health aspects of raw milk so I stick to the pasteurized stuff. I feel strongly that a person should be allowed to do what they want to with their own body, but I also am not happy that she’s essentially playing Russian Roulette with her health. Catch-22, I suppose.

  3. vince says:

    do a taste test between raw, gamma irradiated and pasteurize (but not subject to other processes like homogenization) milk. If the irradiated milk tastes more like raw then it might be useful as a compromise.

    Then compare the enzymes of irradiated and raw milk

    Gamma irradiation safety is a different subject. But most studies show that it is safe.

    This phenomenon is a very common phenomenon coz humans are noobs at assessing risk. Lets say raw milk gives you a 1% chance of disease and pasteurized gives you a 0.01% chance. People will still choose raw because its “their choice” unlike a choice “imposed by the government” and if I make the choice myself, I am somehow less vulnerable. The classic example is a protester holding a sign in one hand that says “air pollution causes cancer” while smoking a cigarette

    • Scott Z says:

      This was a good article, and I may quote it myself (with acknowledgements of course). Guy undermines his own credibility, however, right at the end of the article in his bio. He considers himself a realist. Really, Guy, is that what you are choosing as an introduction to many first readers like myself. If so, I dare you to find even one person who does not consider himself or herself to be a realist. Every person on every side of every argument thinks that he or she is being realistic while the other side is being either deceitful for just plain old wrong. That is why arguments happen. In the modern vernacular, we are all keeping it real — in our own opinions. It is a nonsensical and hubris-feeding label which represents nothing significant.

      • Guy McCardle says:

        Hi Scott,

        Thanks for your comments. You may quote the article if you like.

        Your comments about me referring to myself as a realist made me think. I consider myself to be a realist because I feel I see the world without rose colored glasses and without make believe. People always used to, and still do, refer to me as a pessimist. My come back has always been, “no, I’m a realist” meaning I quickly dismiss all of the BS and feel good notions about a topic and cut right to the truth. I’ll have to revisit my thoughts on this and how it might appear to others.

        –Guy

  4. John says:

    The two instances sited in this article reek of Post-hoc ergo propter hoc. Too funny.

  5. Luis Tovar says:

    Milk is a product derived from animal exploitation. Cows used for milk are born with the sole objective of providing milk for human use. Just like humans, cows will only produce milk if they give birth. Forcible impregnation is carried out each year and the calves are separated from their grieving mothers shortly after birth.

    Female calves may go on to be exploited for milk but the unwanted males and ‘excess’ females are either shot or briefly raised for veal before having their lives drastically cut short in the slaughterhouse.

    The modern cow used for milk has been bred to produce far more milk than her body can cope with. As a result of the toll on her udder, and the hours spent standing on hard concrete floors being milked, she is plagued by mastitis and lameness with up to 50% of UK cows being affected with these painful conditions each year.

    Although cows can live around 25 years, the vast majority of cows are killed at around 5 years old, when their milk production drops and they are considered ‘spent’ by the industry.

    This is the raw truth about milk: http://youtu.be/_kM387cI4rk

    And this: http://www.humanemyth.org/happycows.htm

  6. In response to the taste argument put forth: This seems fairly irrelevant to me. Something like Uranium may taste absolutely super scrumptious. This says exactly noting about it’s health befits.

  7. gaspard says:

    i live in Switzerland. i was brought up in a small village serrounded by family farms with cows. every morning i’d go to the farmers stables as they were milking and i d get a cup of warm foamy milk. my parents would buy fresh milk out of the “laiterie” and our family, aswell as most of the people i know used this milk. i can well imagine that it was the same in many villages around our small country.
    to me, hearing that only 1% of US milk consumption is this type of milk sounds absolutely nuts! maybe the fact that the cows i was drinking milk from lived outdoors in pastures makes a difference to the quality? or maybe someone s found a way of selling a natural product at a much higher price “for our own good”?
    then again the way Americans consume their food has always been a bit of a wonder to us Europeans….

    • Scott Drouin says:

      It sounds like you were getting your milk ‘straight from the udder’. This may have been safe due to a lack of immediate contamination, good cleaning practices with their equipment or possibly a natural resistance to infectious agents in your environment. It may have been a combination of both. It may have also been that you were exposed to certain infectious agents, but they had not had the time to grow into significant quantities and your exposure was too low for an infection to occur.

      Food consumption in the US and Canada (my country, which shares similar food sources and food standards due to our high trade with the US) isn’t really all that different in the rest of the world, except it seems we have a great market for selling things with perceived benefits at a higher price then similar products with no evidence that there is any actual benefit to the premium form. For instance, in the Okanagan region of British Columbia there’s a man who feeds his cows ‘plonk’, a form of cheap wine that is considered unfit for human consumption (our strong and lovely wine industry means that he has ready access to it) and it supposedly makes the meat taste better and sweeter. Is it actually any better? Well, it’s several times the price of normal Canadian beef, but talking to the people who have tried it (my cousin is an ex-chef from a respected Kelowna restaurant) they honestly can’t taste the difference. Nevertheless, the premium stands and he makes a healthy profit on his cows, even if the plonk costs him an extra few dollars.

      Then again, I’m now thinking of Brian Dunning’s horse placenta story. Speaking of ‘for your benefit’…

    • Anonymous says:

      Yay!!!! I love raw milk! I’ve suffered from allergies since I was a kid (I’m 30 now) and my allergies were gonne just 3-6 months after changing from pasteurized to raw milk!!!

  8. Guy McCardle says:

    Hello Gaspard,

    Thanks for reading the blog and thanks for providing a European point of view. I too grew up in a very small town surrounded by family farms with cows. When I was very young we had our milk delivered to the house in glass bottles direct from the dairy. It was always pasteurized though. I remember it tasting better than the stuff we get in stores today.

    I tend to agree with what you said about us buying something “for our own good” at a much higher price. Some of us Americans mistakenly believe that if you pay more for something it must be of higher quality and therefore somehow better for you.

    —Guy

  9. Henk v says:

    I’ve lived through raw milk and the subsequent mandatory industry changes in Oz. I use a lot of milk in my cooking and preparing cheeses. Given that I cant guarantee fresh milk collected in as hygienic a method as possible, I am quite happy to use pasteurised milks.

    The risk of death or injury due to raw milk is miniscule.

    I do note that it was mentioned that raw milk is readily available in the European Union. I would point out that it (and subsequent products) would have to be sold reasonably locally. By the number of protesting cheese manufacturers, pasteurised product can only be traded. This may be international trade only, but EU wide food standards have a pretty good set of rules to minimise food borne illnesses.

    Of course, this doesnt help when folk go into a strange paroxysmal blither about foods remembered. Every nationality and region has its fond memories of unique foods. Raw milk was nice, but to describe it in terms like those above is going over the top.

    Industry standards are enforced on us all for our benefit. We actually would complain is an outbreak of food borne illnesses occurred on our doorstep.

    This afternoon, I am going to have a great munch on some home made cheeses with home made sourdough bread, washed down with home made beer. I am glad I can trust my raw materials to be as safe as the food standards allow in this country.

    look, if I wanted a lipase cheese…I add lipase when I make it. Thanks to industrialisation, my diet is varied and interesting. Its as safe “as possible”.

  10. Henk v says:

    not an errata, but an explanation is required..

    When I wrote “The risk of death or injury due to raw milk is miniscule” ,

    I meant your personal risk.

    Populations are a different matter and outbreaks of food borne illnesses are costly and “deadly”.

  11. Guy McCardle says:

    Hi Henk,

    Let’s make a deal. If I ever make it to Oz we’ll have to sit down and share a beer or two. The home made bread and cheese sounds pretty good as well. You sound like an interesting guy.

    I suppose the actual risk of getting sick from raw milk is a function of a number of variables; especially how the milk was collected and handled and the health of the drinker. With my rotten luck, I’d probably drop dead of shiga toxin E. coli poisoning a day after drinking it.

    • Henk v says:

      by the look of you, you’ve been lucky enough to survive many many meals!!

      Sure, give me a little notice. It takes longer for ingrained old blokes to clean house than it does to brew

      There is an almost perfect argument for raw milk by comparison to slaughter and holding practices. We don’t pasteurise meats.

      Its something we should all bear in mind if we get a little heated of the pros and cons of a product. You generally do not have the holding capacity of meat for milk and milk products (when infection and maturation of animal material is normally desirable).

      The penny should drop if you consider that from time to time food poisoning due to meat storage and preparation failures kills and maims people.

  12. Guy McCardle says:

    Ha! I’ve been known to overindulge a time or two my friend. Have you ever read “Fast Food Nation”? It paints a vivid picture of what can happen when meat storage and preparation fail to meet standards. It almost made me give up hamburgers for a while. Almost.

  13. Henk v says:

    Hang on, on goes my now rarely worn standards hat. In all countries tied to the UN our standards (food, industry, drug, safety etc etc). The standard traceable to ISO (with additional regional variation) are very thorough and are enforceable in countries through laws and codes.

    If you read your food standards you find out petty quickly that there are many points where contamination can arise. Burger is a classic case and handling rules have to be strict and inspectors and manufacturers cannot miss exceptions in process..

    Standards hat off and hobbyist food geek of 46 years (mum make me work in the kitchen and cook since I was 7) hat on..

    No, I make my own mince on chilled flesh and fats when I make sausages. extended bacterial growth periods preclude me from using minces for which the provenance is unknown. Growth during holding in a matrix that is thoroughly interdispersed worries me greatly.

    Please note, supermarket burger sits around for a long time …I am not complaining about this. I am not going to use it for further mixing and contamination by my ministrations.

    The best thing my mother taught me to do was cook.

  14. James says:

    Guy, the research I’ve done on raw milk was quite interesting, there are so many different state laws and so little information on enforcement that it’s hard to tell how safe it can possibly be (which right off the bat should lead one to the precautionary principle and avoid raw milk).

    For example, raw milk has to meet the same coliform count as pasteurized milk in some states (Arizona, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington). The raw milk industry fought these regulations before they passed in 2007 in California.

    Information on food-borne outbreaks/recalls is publicly available and activists (including, unsurprisingly, food-safety lawyers) have aggregated this info and distribute it, covering both pasteurized and unpasteurized outbreaks.

    The state of California actually has no reported outbreaks caused by cows in California for all of 2010 and 2011. There was a 2008 outbreak but the report indicates nothing about if/how the coliform count was monitored and since it was a cow-share and not actual retail sales the regulations may not have applied (not terribly reassuring, mind you).

    On the other side of the coin, the state of Washington apparently has the same legal coliform count but has reported a number of outbreaks in the same time period (most of which resulted in recalls with no reported illness … again, not terribly reassuring).

    Anyway, none of this actually makes me think raw milk is safe enough to consume but I find it very interesting to try to formulate an answer to a complex question when regulations are changing.

    Also of note, none of this actually means raw milk has any real health benefit or any benefit all beyond ‘it tastes better’. It just means there might be some raw milk that’s safer than other raw milk but it’s still hard to say if it’s actually ‘safe’, which isn’t really praise at all.

  15. Sarah Jane says:

    Your article appears biased. I am skeptical of your skepticism, sir.

    What say you? I searched to find (credible) information about this topic:
    http://www.draxe.com/pasteurization-homogenization-101/

    This is what I found.

    As I had suspected, pasteurization was a great advance in technology back when things weren’t quite as clean as we would have liked, and demand was high for the product. When you need to turn a quick buck, a process like this is invaluable. But we don’t HAVE to do it this way anymore. We understand aseptic techniques, it’s just quicker (and more convenient) to do it this way.

    Mind you, I’m not about to go drinking raw milk. However, might want to check out the other side and what it is really doing before you knock them for rejecting “modern science.” I’m very much a science-minded person, but, you know very well that science has made its fair share of mistakes. And when it comes to what we put in our bodies- good god have we made some mistakes!

    • James says:

      Sarah Jane, I would be VERY wary of the advice given by any site that uses Mercola.com as a reputable / primary source. Mercola is a fringe source, with a poor reputation based on apparent HIV/AIDS denialism, anti-vaccination stances and more (he even has a dandy Wikipedia page summing it up).

      This doesn’t mean automatically mean they are wrong about raw milk but I absolutely weigh what the relevant medical and food safety authorities say MUCH, MUCH higher than what Joe Mercola does.

      In fact, that page you link to goes on to link to no relevant medical or food safety authorities and presents the same bare (as in, unsupported by evidence) assertions about supposed health benefits of raw milk and supposed dangers of pasteurization.

    • Guy McCardle says:

      Hi Sarah Jane,

      Thanks for reading the blog. Personally I would take what Dr. Axe has to say with a huge grain of salt. I was wondering what kind of Dr. he is (since he calls himself a wellness physician). Turns out he is a Chiropractor. http://health.state.tn.us/Licensure/Practitioner.aspx?ProfessionCode=1108&LicenseNumber=2244&FileNumber=2244 He is a Chiropractor who graduated in 2007 who sells diet books that recommend putting your body in an alkaline state. He also hawks vitamins and programs for self detoxification in addition to citing Dr. Mercola as a reputable authority on his website. These things are all huge red flags.

      My main source was Cornell University. http://www.milkfacts.info/Milk%20Microbiology/Milk%20Microbiology%20Page.htm Strict adherence to aseptic technique in the collection of milk makes it safer to drink, but it does not bring the safety of the product anywhere near the level that pasteurization does.

  16. Henk v says:

    I am not sure that is being said. I certainly dont maintain it. If you consider James’ post, in places where raw milk is sold (or raw milk products are sold), you sometimes get an out break of food borne illnesses because the product isnt terminally pasteurised.

    This would be similar to any product that isnt terminally treated. Of great note here is salami type foods where the nasty strain of e. coli (specific to bovines) contamiates the product and a few people die or are maimed. Given that such product is fermented under oxidising conditions (and osmotically non conducive to pathogenic bacterial growth) the wrong bugs sometimes still get to proliferate in some batches and their toxins hurt folk.

    Now salamis have treatment conditions that knock over undesirable bugs. Not just excluding them. My favourite, beer, also is fermented in conditions unconducive to nasty bugs (huge over competition by yeasts). Raw milk doesnt have this component and asceptic technique is not always good enough to cover all infective bases.

    The upshot? in a large population the risk due to outbreaks of infected milk appears to be unacceptable to some authorities. Apparently it isnt for salami or beer.

    Are food authorities fickle? you bet they appear to be inconsistent from state to state or economic zone to economic zone. You may well find that incorporation of additional food collection handling, dispensing and storage standards could cover the raw milk issue. In countries where raw milk is monitored in such a fashion it would be safe to drink it. In countries where standards and codes are disparate I would probably avoid it.

    You know, so many people fly Qantas because they have a great safety record and then take helicopter joy rides when on holidays in distant lands

  17. Greenwick says:

    I used to drink raw goat milk because I thought it tasted great, and also because I figured it would help keep my immune system strong by giving it a workout. As far as cow milk goes, I’m sure the bulk of the “It tastes awesome!” comes from the associations surrounding it. Raw milk is often given comfortable and ‘natural’ wrappings. It tastes like morality or the boutique experience. The taste of goat milk varies widely depending on the farm and even time of year that you happen to get it; the raw goat milk always tended to taste the best to me, but that is probably because it comes from a local farm whose other goat dairy products I also enjoy.

  18. Guy McCardle says:

    I really like cheese from goat’s milk and fudge made from goat’s milk is far and away the best I’ve ever had. I’d like to try their milk if it was pasteurized. Does anybody know where I could get some?

  19. Henk v says:

    Our health food stores sell it. Its expensive at 8 bux a litre tho.. Do you have a meditteranean/halal sector of your local businesses? I have ( a long time ago) bought goat milk in a litre tetra pack for half the highway robbery the local health and supplements stores demand. I am not going to waste half an hour of petrol to buy goat milk when it can be spent on nipping two boards down the surf a few times a week.

    On chesses, its very simple to make soft-cream cheeses over a week or fortnight. Here is the clincher, If you are sloppy with infection control, you could on the off chance (and it is also remote) give yourself a nasty time with your head in the sink and your seat on the seat. The same goes for a lot of foods. Its just that a producer / food manufacturer or restaurant doing so is a disaster.

    A) nearly all food poisonings occur from the home food.
    b) at home, there is no such thing as asceptic technique unless your are related to Howard Hughes.
    c) Hoorah for wash your hands day!

  20. Guy McCardle says:

    We do have a small healthfood store downtown. Maybe I’ll check there. $8 a litre seems a bit steep though. I can get a decent six-pack for that. Come to think of it, I had some really good Belgian beer (Chimay) that wasn’t pasteurized. It still had the sediment in the bottle from the yeast. I believe Chimay makes cheese as well.

  21. Danny Keith James says:

    I drank raw milk from about the age of nine until I became an adult. As far as I know I suffered no ill effects. I was lucky. I wouldn’t think of drinking raw milk now.

  22. M. K. says:

    I drink raw milk. I feed it to my kids. I purchase it right off the farm; I inspect the milking process, check the milk testing results, and I know the farmer. He knows his product is going to be consumed without pasturization so he takes the extra step to make sure that his cows are properly cleaned, and his equipment is properly sterilized. I would rather support him this way than by purchasing milk in a store. He makes 100% profit when I make a purchase compared to 80 cents/gallon through the dairy that purchases his milk.

    I have worked in the cheese industry; the milk samples that would come in for testing were disgusting, covered with manure and some were so bloody they looked like strawberry milk. If regulations were in place that would insure that farmers would follow a much more stringent policy for cleaning their equipment and their cows, plus eliminate this notion that cows need to eat silage to produce milk, we would be producing a much cleaner product. (Corn silage consumption creates the perfect intestinal environment for E. Coli o157:H7) When cows are not forced to become milk machines through the injections of artificial hormones and are fed a proper diet, you get a superior product. ( BTW there are stringent testing procedures to insure that antibiotics do NOT make it into the products made with milk, if antibiotics are present the milk is thrown away.)

    This all boils down to where you choose to purchase your food and your right to eat what you want to eat. I would rather support my local farmer who milks about 75 cows and is fully aware he is selling a raw product than purchase a gallon of milk at a big box store that contains the milk from 1000 cows injected with rBGH, has had all the vitamins replaced with synthetic conterparts, and has the shelf life of a month vs two weeks.

    Personally, I would like to see the comparison of food poisoning rates from milk in the countries that allow the purchase and consumption of raw milk to that of the U.S.

  23. Guy McCardle says:

    Hi M.K.,

    Thanks for the information. Very interesting. Is sounds as if you frequent a very conscientious dairy farmer. If only all dairy farmers could be so careful with their product. Personally, I’d be afraid that I’d get the milk collected on the day the boss was away from the dairy and the hired help was running things. But that’s just me.

    I’m all for people having the right to consume whatever they desire. I’m also all for the right of consumers to be well informed before they make that choice. You made a good point with your cheese industry anecdote. If people could see some of the raw product that was coming in they’d definitely think twice before consuming the finished product.

  24. Henk v says:

    I agree with MK in the sense that if I had the local farmer producing a great tested product, I’d utilise it as well.

    I know that feeding animals second pass (or waste products) is a measure you take when you want to create food machines.

    MK, you should be aware of the rates of foodborne illnesses from raw and processed milk sources. These are commonly presented in food technology literature, conversation within standards monographs and epidemiology literature.

    It appears, by your statement of occupation, that you have full access to the journals in one of these fields.

  25. M. K. says:

    Silage is not waste or a second pass product; it is a fermented corn/alfalfa mix fed to dairy cattle. Feeding dairly cows this mix results in a decrease in the acidity of the digestive tract resulting in the growth of unwanted harmful bacteria (such and the E. Coli mentioned above). The rBGH is injected into cows to increase their milk supply; literally taking a healthy animal, giving it a steroid and milking the life force from the animal. Cows given rBGH live at most 5 years, those who are not given rBGH can be productive for 20+.

    I am aware of the rates of foodborne illnesses in this country. I would like to see the rates of illness in the European nations that allow the consumption of unpasturized dairy. I believe our focus on factory farming leads to the increase in contamination of our food products. If we could go back to the small family farm I believe we would have a decrease in such outbreaks. Another advantage would be the ability to immediately pinpoint the source of infection instead of sifting through endless amounts of data and taking weeks to find the culprit.

    I would like to clarify that I am no longer working at the cheese making facility; I have an issue with producing a product, adding aging enzymes to said product and then selling the product to consumers as an aged product. In my book that is deceptive marketing, legal but deceptive all the same.

    We are allowed to consume raw fish in this country; why not dairy???? If the regulations change and people are aware of the risks then it should be up the consumer, NOT the Feds.

  26. Henk v says:

    You’ve made a good point about raw fish in that in our areas fish is also sold untreated and has very little inherent resistance to spoilage. Raw meat is the same and you would be a little loopy to eat raw burger.

    The small family farm is an ideal. We cant all (7 billion) live in a technological world on small farms and not increase our resource demands. I dont think that your proposed decrease in outbreaks would be matched by the inherent drop in average age that would ensure. As I have stated before, food borne illnesses start in the home and regulation is done by mandate.

    I would offer that the first paragraph is starting to anthropomorphise cattle. Thanx for correcting me on silage. I had it confused with some industries passing secondary product as fodder.

    Cattle are a resource and (although i dont like it) they are just there to deliver product. You can disparage cheese all you like but I really do not see the difference between dairy cows and sheep, chickens and farm crayfish. They are farmed because they are a valuable resource. The products made from animals are just that.

  27. Guy McCardle says:

    I agree with Henk when he says that most food borne illness start in the home. I have seen several cases of food poisoning and the vast majority of them could be traced back to improper handling and/or preparation. A found a decent site called Still Tasty http://www.stilltasty.com/ that gives good rule of thumb guidelines on how long you can safely store food before it is no longer good to eat.

  28. Ewen says:

    Very one sided article. You’d think that with all the Europeans consuming raw milk products (135 billion litres a year), there would be a statstically significant number of illnesses and/or deaths as a result. However, this is not the case, otherwise we would see a responding governmental action to stop this production and consumption. One is much more likely to succumb to E. coli from store bought spinach than raw milk. How many of you eat spinach raw in your salads?

    The real question that needs to be asked is: Does government have any right to interfere in the educated food choices we make as individuals and families? Or is the government simply a regulatory body that objectively sets standards for those choices and monitors the safe production and distribution of the choices we do make? This issue extends far beyond food, of course. Choices about vaccinations, schooling methods, ways of parenting, etc., all fall under this growing area of contention.

    We choose our governments to manage the administrative affairs of our countries, not to meddle in our personal lives and certainly not to control what food we consume.

  29. Henk v says:

    Ewan, your second question is answered above. Both the EU and states, US states have taken it into consideration. If you live in a region where un treated milk is available exercise your democratic right to vote in people who would change that (either way).

    I would like to use unprocessed milk for a few of the applications I play with but frankly, I dont trust the unregulated people in my region to cough up with the goods.

    I prefer a regulated industry.

    Now as to the comment about people getting food borne illnesses from un pasteurised product in the EU, you’ll find that there are very many producers who are a bit narked by the amateurs who ruin it all for their traditional methods and have subsequently killed folk.

    I would hunt through the literature. From what I see as a minimum risk is viewed by those who write codes and standards “deadly consequence”. I really dnt mind folk erring on the tough side.

    It only takes one failed standard an people die. Such things are not written on a “she’ll be right mate” attitude.

  30. Guy McCardle says:

    Personally, I’d like to try raw milk. There is an Amish farm that sells it just five miles from my house. If I ever want it, it is there. However, I’m just not willing to take the risk. It is not worth it to me. If I ever change my mind though, it is there. What I’m trying to say is that it is my choice and that is the way I feel it should be. Well informed adults should not be told that they cannot assume the risk of consuming a legal product.

  31. Henk v says:

    Thats now become very topical as the last settlement in the garibaldi preserved meats case (@17 years running)

    Note that I have no idea how the meat was preserved but would note as I have above, even with a preservation step, a food that can be contaminated will be somewhere.

  32. Thricital Cinker says:

    A little education never hurt anyone. Instead of regurgitating government and industry propaganda, give actual science and history a try:

    http://www.realmilk.com/documents/RebuttaltoFDARawMilkArticle-MAR2012.pdf

    It’s not a light read, but I implore you to please read the entire rebuttal.

    The actual reasons government and the milk industry pushed for and continue to push for pasteurization laws is because the large dairy operations are dirty and have some of the most filthy, disgusting environments: poor worker hygiene; milk contaminated with dirt, blood, and feces; contaminated equipment; poor animal health, stress. and indoor conditions; et al. Add to the fact that the smaller dairies use stricter standards of cleanliness, storage, and production. Slapping a pasteurization requirement on everyone within a state crushes the smaller competitors who cannot afford the extra equipment, let alone the legal costs and threat of imprisonment for noncompliance. Pasteurized milk also has a longer shelf life, which is more about shipment and storage than it is about quality and nutrition.

    Want to know the real reasons for the pasteurization laws? It’s as boring an answer as everything else: Follow the money and ask yourself “Who benefits the most from this?”

    Don’t tell me what I can and cannot, purchase, sell, eat, drink, or put into my own body. I respect your freedom of choice, and I ask you to return that same level of respect.

  33. Thricital Cinker says:

    @Guy McCardie

    Taken from your own article: “The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the recall and quarantine on Tuesday. It said laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk had not detected the strain of E. coli that sickened the children. Samples of the milk actually consumed by the children also didn’t reveal E.coli.”

    This is a common pattern, and it has happened before: http://www.realmilk.com/pr_071402.html

    Nothing more than hasty conclusions and blatant conformation bias. Not to mention the fact that if raw milk was supposedly as dangerous as we’re led to believe and if consumption rose to levels that would likely come from a free market, it would still account for fewer illnesses than contaminated vegetables, sprouts, or eggs.

    If there’s a small event of illness from contaminated milk, it’s “further reason why milk must be pasteurized!” If there’s a larger, wider scale of contaminated spinach or rice, oh well. We’ll have to “look into it.”

  34. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I am always shocked by such level of ignorance. That’s right out the “Manufactured Milk Industry” propaganda book. Seems like skepticism works only one way in your case :-)

  35. Check out the article in the Wall Street Journal published June 11, 2013, on the new scientific evidence that raw milk is safer than green leafy vegetables.

  36. Joss Smith says:

    Let’s all just face the fact that eating and drinking are dangerous pursuits. Like it or not, there are bacteria and viruses along with chemicals, in all there forms, that can kill us. Food safety laws are no different that highway or workplace safety laws; they are in place to try and minimize the risk to society as a whole. Is there a risk that raw milk can kill you? Yes. Is there a risk that pasteurized milk can kill you? Yes. A previous comment said hypothetically that there was a 1% chance of infection from raw and a .01% chance from pasteurized. Using those as an example, raw would be 1000 times more likely to cause an infection. I don’t know what the actual numbers are but I think you can see my point. The risk is much higher and laws are put in place to minimize that risk. All food decisions people make have some risk associated with them. I think that when you start talking about the sale of food items, people want some sort of consumer protection. I would argue that to be the reason for laws against the sale of raw milk. As near as I can tell, the only laws regarding raw milk have to do with their sale, not their consumption. There could just as easily be a warning on the milk, like the one on restaurant menus that warns against undercooked meats and eggs, but that is something to be left to the law making process to address. With that comes political arguments and pressure and power and money and everything else that clouds the political process. Arguing about whether or not raw milk is better for you is like arguing over whether or not organically grown food is better for you, or for the environment, or the economy. Whether or not science has been able to show one or the other to be true, some people just believe that one is better and that should not be the basis of whether or not it is legal. If a person wants to drink raw milk, they should drink raw milk. If the laws of their state prohibit its sale, then they should either get a cow or get involved in the political process to get that law changed. I personally think that laws protecting people from themselves should not be in place. Laws that protect people from others are OK. If a person wants to accept the risks of drinking raw milk, then there should be no one there to stop them, but the flip side is that if they do get sick, then they should have no legal recourse to blame someone else for selling them the raw milk that made them sick.

  37. Typo: “It is full of is full of calcium…”

  38. cil says:

    do you guys only buy pasturised eggs too? Id have to look it up, but im pretty sure the eggs membrane is permable (hence they go off); or are you just relying on the above mentioned smell test for that?

  39. Magnanamous Dinoflagellate, says:

    I think Guys article should be reposted now that Brian has had a good say on the matter as well.

    http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4383#discuss

    By the way, if you are very interested in food and you wan to know a lot more in a very short time, your local technicaleducation system should provide courses that are food related.

    In Oz, under Hospitality; Cookery, you can get a food handling certificate that covers about a 1hr semester in about two whole days. Alternatively, you could learn a lot more knocking over that first semester of hospitality.

    Technical education and training is a great place to learn.

  40. Michelle says:

    The claim about arthritis and raw milk is true. I haven’t researched it myself. But after the birth of my son I had incredible arthritis at night and as soon as I started drinking raw milk the pain went away. But once in a while I forget to pickup my raw milk from the farm and I’m would be left a whole week without it and my arthritis pains would return. I’ve observed this pattern for the last two years and just recently made the connection.

  41. Dennis Glodzik says:

    I’ve been drinking raw milk for years now, with no apparent ill effects. About all the old propaganda that pasteurization does not affect the flavor, total crap! Raw milk is much more flavorful and refreshing than pasteurized. I have no miracle stories to recount, only my belief that some of the old practices were better than much of the over processed, chemical additive tainted junk that the big food industry passes off on us now.

  42. PetertheMilkDrinkingMan says:

    I just drank raw milk and now I can bench press 600 pounds! I also seem to be developing white, silky, sticky secretions coming out of my palms that I can shoot into the air! I’m going to try shooting it at a building and swing around on it…

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