Ag Weekly

Raw Milk: Buying Danger

Former Senior Fellow

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control finally confirmed that drinking raw milk is more than twice as dangerous then drinking pasteurized milk. And the raw milk disease outbreaks are more dangerous especially for kids and the elderly. This is the CDC's reluctant response to a craze among the alternate believers for "all natural." CDC made the announcement after a 13-year review!

Dr. Robert Tauxe, director of CDC's division of foodborne diseases said "The states that allow sale of raw milk will probably continue to see outbreaks in the future" The CDC and FDA also say pasteurized milk has all the same benefits as unpasteurized milk.

This "bolsters the federal government's argument to go after farmers who sell unpasteurized milk across state lines" said The Washington Times online February 21st.

First and foremost, cattle sometimes have diseases that the farmers don't know they have. This isn't as big a risk as it was in my youth. Lots of the dairy cattle then carried tuberculosis and undulant fever, truly awful diseases. All dairy cattle now have to be tested periodically to ensure they don't have either. Still, hundreds of Americans have had to be hospitalized with serious illnesses from such milk-borne bacteria as salmonella, campylobacter, listeria-and the ever-popular E. coli in some of its more dangerous forms. The CDC says 200 out of 239 hospitalizations studied during its long review of the raw milk question stemmed from unpasteurized milk.

Would you believe that people on the far side of "living naturally" insist on drinking this more-dangerous raw milk for their health? And, giving it to their children! That's what interviews by the University of Wisconsin found. A growing number of consumers feel that pasteurization "robs" milk of some of its nutritional and health benefits. They truly say this! Some consumers say that raw milk is a "living food," while pasteurized milk is biologically "dead." Wow.

Some of these benighted believers said they had ailments that "the doctors" have not diagnosed to their satisfaction. They're looking for "alternative treatments" that the doctors don't believe in. Drinking raw milk surely qualifies there.

Some even believe that raw milk contains "good bacteria" that the pasteurization indiscriminately kills. Well, if you think salmonella is a "good bacteria" that's true. If it's a potentially deadly health threat, that's true too.

Even less persuasive is another idea offered by the raw milk believers--that they want to "connect" with some sort of energy field ascribed to the small farmer producing food "naturally." The "energy field" these farmers are mining, however, seems to be generated by the fact that the Wisconsin dairy farmers were charging up to $7 per gallon for their raw milk, compared to $1.40 per gallon if they sold to the dairy. Not much mystery there. It helps, of course, if the raw milk dairy farmer is more glib than the usual farmer about the "bloom of health" stuff, offering lots of emotional reinforcement to the city rubes.

A couple of years ago, after writing a column critical of raw milk, I got an e-mail from a woman "Out West." She told me, "Oh, Mr. Avery, if you had ever offered raw milk to your own children, and seen the bloom of health that came over them as a result, you'd be with us in this crusade."

I wrote back and told the lady she was unlucky--because I'd grown up drinking raw milk and had experienced no extra bloom of anything beneficial. I had allergies then and allergies now. Matter of fact, after I went away to college and started drinking pasteurized milk, I grew two more inches and gained 30 pounds as I reached my genetic destiny. (No, I am not claiming miracles for pasteurized milk, but obviously, I don't believe the raw milk hype.)

When I back-checked her e-mail address, the web site was touting the raw milk she was selling.