Got Raw Milk?

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Raw, organic and unprocessed are becoming new trends in nutrition.  But should this enthusiasm extend to milk?   Pasteurization became routine in the United States in the 1920s, dramatically reducing the occurrence of many previously-endemic diseases.  Yet some feel that raw milk has numerous benefits, ranging from curing diseases to improving the immune system. Vocal groups such as Organic Pastures’ founder Mark McAfee, The Weston A. Price Foundation, and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund have lauded the health benefits of raw milk and are working hard to protect consumers access to it. These health benefits are not backed by scientific evidence.  In fact, a Stanford Universitystudy refuted the claim that raw milk is better for lactose intolerant individuals. Even if there are anecdotal health benefits, the risk for infections remains a very real concern.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that raw milk poses a 150 times greater risk than pasteurized milk, and illnesses caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli have been transmitted by raw milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against raw milk consumption.  Parents whose children became ill after drinking raw milk are upset at the suffering their children endured from something preventable.  
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The CDC recently sent a letter to state officials outlining the dangers of raw milk and encouraging further regulation.  A group of experts on food safety put together an educational website about raw milk.  But education is not enough.  Residents in every state where raw milk sales are legal must demand that their state’s department of agriculture find ways to protect the public, including strict licensing, sanitation and inspection guidelines for all raw milk producers.  While these efforts require funding and political will, they are necessary to promote and protect the health of our communities.

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3 Responses to “Got Raw Milk?”

  1. sbfphc Says:

    A completely different perspective on ANY milk product is the environmental impact of dairy and beef industries on the environments. There is also the worry for many years of cow’s milk products competing with human breast feeding. Milk in any form presents health challenges.

  2. MMClancy Says:

    Currently interstate sales of unpasteurized milk is banned, which remains as controversial as states banning the sale. Certainly there is precedent for regulation of food safety (as in meat products) unless for personal use. It’s on the scale of the argument about large sugary drinks–can we legislate whether or not someone makes healthy food choices? Whether it’s eating raw oysters or drinking unpasteurized milk, if the ingester knows the possible risks, who are we to stop them?
    In the case of unpasteurized milk at least the ramifications by way of long-term costs can be estimated to be less (a lot less expensive to treat a bout of Salmonella, even if unfortunately fatal, than to manage a lifetime of type 2 diabetes).
    That said, I wholeheartedly agree that unpasteurized milk has not been shown to have any benefits and, as the FDA says, is a lot like playing Russian roulette with your health.

  3. annepalumbo Says:

    Regarding cost, it is not only the cost of treating the individual patient that should be taken into consideration. There is concern that outbreak investigations and product recalls divert precious public health funds from other arenas.

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