Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should raw milk be banned?

Last week, I tweeted a link to I drink raw milk, an article by Joel Salatin, and I commented that I liked the article, but the comments made me want to scream. Later that day, I received this response via Twitter:
mitoticspindle @antiquityoaks I'm all for small farms and sustainable agriculture, but I've gotten ill from raw milk--have to say I agree with the comments
Well, I've gotten ill from Vicodin and Tramadol and about five different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Should we ban them? My husband got sick after eating a soy cheese pizza once. Should we ban that? In Illinois, they tried to ban church potlucks after people got sick from one, but they didn't get very far. My mother and uncle (and a few million other people) died from smoking cigarettes, but no one is willing to attempt to ban them, in spite of the fact that there is absolutely nothing good about cigarettes. Why do we think that it's okay for people to choose to use tobacco, and at the same time, we don't think people should be able to choose to buy raw milk? What about capitalism and our free market?

From reading some of the comments on Salatin's article, I've come to the conclusion that some people have no idea what pasteurization does to milk. People seem to think it is some highly scientific process that renders milk completely harmless -- and that milk is inherently contaminated. On the contrary, if milk has been pasteurized and is then handled incorrectly, it can become just as toxic as any other food that is handled incorrectly. Any food can make you sick if it's not handled properly. Remember the problems the U.S. had recently with peanuts and spinach? Has anyone suggested we ban them?

So, just in case you were wondering -- here's a primer on milk and pasteurization. Pasteurization was started because people were getting tuberculosis from cows through their milk. Today, 48 states in the U.S. are certified TB-free in cattle, and all 50 are TB-free in goats. There is an accurate and inexpensive TB test available to make sure your goats or cows don't have TB in case you're worried about it.

Milk is full of bacteria, and contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad thing. It's the basis of cheese and yogurt making. Milk is alive. Pasteurization kills it. Just as antibiotics indiscriminately kill good and bad bacteria in our bodies, pasteurization indiscriminately kills both good and bad bacteria in milk. How? By heating milk to 145 degrees and holding it there for 30 minutes, the vast majority of bacteria and other living organisms are killed. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been treated at 280 degrees, which kills everything instantly. Dairies like UP, because it means milk will not spoil for 45 days in an unopened carton, meaning they will have less waste, which equals more profit.

What's wrong with this picture?
It's probably not a big deal to some people, but you cannot make cheese or yogurt with milk that has been ultra-pasteurized, even after adding cultures and rennet. It's just that dead. More important, however, is that some people can't drink pasteurized milk. This is often misdiagnosed as a lactose intolerance. Ask just about anyone with cows or goats, and they've been approached by people who need raw milk. Yes, they need raw milk. Some merely need raw milk if they're going to have milk in their diet at all, because they need the live cultures in the milk to help them digest it. But there are some people with severe medical problems, and raw milk is one of the only foods they can digest. Some of them are able to find a farm where they can buy raw milk, but others wind up moving to the country and starting their own herd of dairy goats or cows. Every year, someone buys goats from me because they need raw milk. Can you imagine having a loved one so ill that you'd be willing to leave your current life, move to a new home, and begin living a completely different lifestyle?

I use raw milk a lot. I even make cheese and buttermilk with it. It seems pointless to pasteurize milk for mozzarella when it's going to be put on a pizza or lasagna and baked, because heating it will essentially pasteurize it. Using milk in cooking also pasteurizes it, especially when you make something like pudding where you're boiling it. Ironically, I've only had one batch of cheese and one batch of yogurt go bad during processing -- both were from pasteurized milk. Assuming that milk is safe because it's pasteurized is a bad assumption. People can get sick from pasteurized milk. So, why don't we just ban milk completely? And while we're at it, we could also ban cigarettes.

Nothing replaces common sense -- not even legislation.

For more posts on real food, visit Fight Back Friday.


Ann Duncan said...

You are so right, Deborah.

Assuming milk is safe because it's pasteurized IS a bad assumption!

I'll take mine raw, thank you :)

And I believe everyone should have the right to choose raw milk.


Anonymous said...

One of the most aggravating laws in my state [and surrounding states] is the banning of raw milk.

I grew up on it - and surprise! Still here!

The only way to obtain it is to buy a share of a cow, but that works out to around 9-10 dollars a gallon and something we can't afford, sigh.

On a happier note [and they are expensive, but a one time expense] we have a place to buy a heritage turkey for Thanksgiving. I am so excited. I can almost taste it.

And I agree with Ms. Duncan - everyone should have a right to choose raw milk.

K @ Prudent and Practical said...

I have never had raw milk but would like to try it. I've searched online and I can't find anywhere near me that sells it. Is it really more of an underground thing? I've asked a couple health food stores if they have any and I pretty much got laughed at. Any tips?

Raheli said...

I have been drinking raw milk for 2 years, and now I have trouble believing that the 1% milk you buy in the store is actual Food.

I absolutely agree that we should have access to raw milk -- I guess the biggest question is how to do it safely. In NY & PA you can only sell raw milk on the farm [not in stores], which also means that we know our farmers & can see for ourselves the cleanliness of the operation.

Juliann said...

We drank raw cow milk when we were kids, straight from the udder.
I don't think it should be illegal. I'm tired of big gov treating adults like little children. Expecially when we have real issues that need to be concentrated on .
Let us make our own choices.

melanie said...

I can't agree more! Choice, choice, choice!

Gizmo said...

I completely agree with you!
We drink raw milk here - both cow and goat. I do have several "friends" who come to me for it too.
I am constantly amazed how people will argue against raw milk, and then go buy the probiotic products at their drug store.

Anonymous said...

We are sold raw meat and expected to cook it safely in our homes. Why not milk? Sell it raw with instructions on how to pasteurize if the individual consumer cares. Otherwise let the milk be milk!


Deborah Niemann said...

K @ Prudent and Practical, You can try checking and the Weston Price Foundation for people who sell raw milk. If it's illegal in your state, then you'll have to be more creative. Check the American Dairy Goat Association or the American Goat Society for members near you who have milk goats. I wish there were an easy way to find people with cows, but each breed has its own registry. If I were going to search for one breed of cow for milk, it would probably be Jersey, since they're still used in a FEW small dairies. They have really rich milk!

Gizmo, Yes, grrr, people who condemn raw milk and then buy probiotics don't know much about either product. :(

MaskedMan said...

One of the major problems in this country is that schools have stopped teaching kids how to think. Oh, there are any number of programs and innitiatives to teach this trendy topic or push that pet agenda, but actual, rigorous, deductive, inductive, and scientific reasoning? There's no constituency for it - It would teach kids to question, and that is anathema to any number of interest groups (in my opinion).

One of the things lost with the inability to apply rigorous reasoning is a loss of understanding of causality. Understanding that coincidence =! cause is a key concept. So people hear "Drank raw milk + got sick" and conclude, without testing their conclusion, that "raw milk == sick." That conclusion may be right. It may be wrong. But without investigation there is no way to tell - But laws will still be attempted on the basis of that untested hypothesis. And most people will swallow (pardon the pun) the unjustified explanation without a second thought.
Which is sad.

CleanerLife said...

I've gotten sick on pasteurized milk that was already going bad when I bought it, how about a call to ban pasteurized milk?

Where I get my milk now, I can see the cows, their stalls, the milking area, their food (green grass in the warm seasons, local harvested hay during the colder parts of the year). If I time it right, I can see the person who does the milking, and actually get the milk while it is still warm.

I do not have to worry about how far did it travel to get to the processing plant, how far did it go to get from the processing plant to the store, how long did it sit at the store before I bought it, nor the dozens of people who have come into contact with it in all that time!

MichelleH said...

I hadn't even heard of raw milk until a few years ago when a Canadian man in Ontario got in trouble for dealing in raw milk. I didn't understand at all what the big deal was until I read your blog...I guess it must be illegal in Canada as well as parts of the US.

So weird! Why let people do any of the stupid stuff they get away with (talking on cell phones while driving, binge drinking, smoking, eating excessive amounts of junk food)and not let them drink whatever milk they want to? Craziness!

We grew up taking lactobacillus suppliements, and I was pleased to read in National Geographic that people exposed to lactobacillus as children had fewer allergies as adults. From what I read here, it sounds like all we had to do was drink raw milk, instead of washing down our suppliments with regular 2%! So ironic!

KimS said...

Oh, MaskedMan - you've got it in a nutshell. As per other's notes: We all make choices & suffer *or* reap the consequences. Why, exactly, should we be protected from this?!

Unknown said...

Pasteurized milk is white boiled water with vitamins added back in. But we should all fight for our right to choose. Period.

Your blog entry was very well written...
Have a fabulous week end!
~Really Rainey~

Brianne said...

Our inherent ability to make conscious decisions through free choice is what makes us innately human. Whether those decisions are perceived as good, bad or otherwise is of no consequence: that cognitive function alone separates us from sheep. Why, why, why do we as a population continue to tolerate the incessant "shepparding" by our own government? Thank you for this post, and bring on my gallon of raw milk! I am no sheep!

Donna said...

Hear, hear...people should be able to make their own choice as to what they put in their body!! We have a local farm that sells their raw milk in a Natural Food store and at the farmers market and he sells it marked as "not for Human consumption"...the only way he can bring it to either of these places! How ridiculous is that? I agree Deb....whay not ban cigarettes and don't forget...let's fine the people who don't wear a warm enough coat and get sick...gee whiz..they should know better than to go out in the cold! Where does it stop?

Melissa said...

We're lucky in Vermont in that raw milk is HUGE! You can only sell it straight to the consumer- no stores- but it is completely allowed here. Once we start milking a larger # of goats we're going to start selling raw milk- theres a big market for it here.

Anonymous said...

I wear a motorcyle helmet because it's my choice to keep my brains in my head as best I can...but if the guy next to me doesn't like his, he should be free to not wear one and play russian roulette with his head.
It is all about choice...and common sense. I got food poisoning years ago from a name brand, INSPECTED chicken....but I drank milk from the farmer by the gallon and was one happy camper!!!
Never got sick either :)

Caprifool said...

I would never ruin my milk by pastuerising. What should be banned, is ignorance. We need to be able to take part of all (both sides) the research availabe and make up our own minds. I have!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the reason people freak out about raw milk is because, apparently, if a person gets sick from raw milk he is then contagious and can infect other persons.

I read a story some time ago where child A infected child B with a disease because child A drank raw milk, got sick and then infected child B. Child B will be on kidney dialysis for the rest of his life. I clearly don't remember all the details including what disease it was and what happpened to child A.

My family drinks raw milk and cream from a farm we've visited. I have no concerns about giving raw milk and cream to my children. If I didn't get the raw milk, they would not drink milk at all. However, I have a friend that is totally against raw milk. If she thought for a second her children might get a disease from my kids because of raw milk, she'd end the freindship.

Deborah Niemann said...

TB is the only milk-borne disease that is contagious between humans. Food poisoning is certainly not contagious -- and that's usually what results in kidney dialysis. TB is a lung disease.

After discussing this with the family, we've come to the conclusion that e coli could be transmissible between children if Child A pooped and somehow Child B came in contact with the poop and infected him/herself. But that would be true of ANY food poisoning from e coli, whether you consumed spinach, peanuts, or beef, which are more often responsible for e coli food poisoning than raw milk.

Unknown said...

I so agree with you! I read that if you feed a calf pasteurized milk, it will die, because it needs that bacteria to live. If I want to choose raw milk, I should be able to sign a waiver or something and be on my way. We take chances with our lives every day we live, and who knows when the end will come and how? I don't remember all these kids being allergic to so many things when I was little, and I don't remember anyone having lactose intolerance. We didn't have homogenized milk. It came in bottles with the cream on top, and was sat on the doorstep. If THAT isn't going to kill us, how is raw milk, properly handled, going to?

Spinners End Farm said...

One of the greatest things we have done for our children is feed them raw milk. They have learned about health benefits, the barter system, and sustainability.

Our milk comes from a neighbor who has become a dear friend (another bonus), with a happy well cared for Jersey cross who is grass pastured. We can go pat our milk source anytime we wish and see how healthy she is (and yes, she has been TB tested even though we live in a TB free certified state). It is illegal here to buy raw milk, so we trade/barter with our friend and it is a win-win situation.

How sad though that is is made to feel like a clandestine operation and that many people don't know they even have a "choice".

sbinzel said...

It seems that sometimes when (allegedly) raw milk makes people sick....people who didn't drink the milk get sick too. So instead of looking at other causes (a county fair? A restaurant? Something?) the feds have decided to explain the non-drinkers illness by saying that human to human transmission is possible....because it HAS to be the milk, right? I get so mad about what the feds and states are doing - if they ban raw milk they should also ban hamburger, tomatoes, spinach and anything else that has ever made people sick...or else let us have the choice to drink raw (like the smokers and drinkers have the choice to consume when there is a known risk).

tina said...

I want raw milk legal in every state! However, I don't think I want to see raw milk available in my local grocery store.

Inevitably, someone will sue a raw dairy farm because he THINKS he got sick from raw milk. Then raw milk will be less available than it already is.

I like the idea of those who want raw milk to seek it out and pay for a cow share. But to have it legal in every state for anyone who wants it, would be super!


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