Raw milk controversy foams again

March 29, 2010
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If you want to start a fight, you’ll do as well to mention raw milk as health care reform.

The ongoing conflict between unpasteurized milk advocates and the government and medical establishment is back in the news with the dozen confirmed cases of people getting sick with campylobacteriosis—three in Indiana and nine in Michigan.

The bacteria, which causes diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and cramping, is associated with people who drank raw milk from Forest Grove Dairy near the northern Indiana town of Middlebury.

Pasteurization, a heat treatment that kills bacteria, was adopted a century ago to sterilize milk produced by filthy dairies, and the Food and Drug Administration now dictates that all milk sold to the public undergo the process.

Raw milk enthusiasts complain pasteurization kills healthy bacteria and enzymes along with any bad stuff. The backers also point out that farms that produce raw milk sweeten its attraction by tending to avoid antibiotics and feeding animal byproducts.

Health officials counter that nutritional benefits of raw milk are negligible and the risk of getting sick is too high. Consumption of raw milk caused at least 187 hospitalizations, 1,614 illnesses and two deaths in the decade ended in 2008, the FDA says.

If it’s illegal to sell unpasteurized milk, how did all those people get it from Forest Grove Dairy? That’s under investigation by the FDA, and the agency isn’t discussing its findings for now.

People intent on getting raw milk often skirt the law by buying their own cows in arrangements call “cow-shares.” (Ownership of cows is shared because one cow would drown a typical family with too much milk.)

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health doesn’t track raw milk because the only people allowed to drink it are those who produce it themselves.

Spokeswoman Denise Derrer says some Amish families drink raw milk, but the board also is aware of Latino families using it to make “bathtub cheese.” As the name implies, lots of the traditional white soft cheese can be made in tubs. People in the Indianapolis area have gotten sick from eating the cheese, she says.

What’s your opinion about raw milk? Do you take the libertarian view of letting people follow their convictions? Or are you on the side of the officials who say it’s dangerous enough to ban?

  • buy locally produced food
    The filthy conditions that you speak of still exist at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. If people saw where most of their milk and meat came from they would stop buying it. (Watch "Food Inc"!) I personally know the farmer whose cows produce the raw milk I drink. He is very careful to produce clean, safe milk.
    • Why drink something you know will make you sick?
      Part of the role of government is to ensure that the general public is safe from things like bacterial contaminations. I believe that if milk is sold over the counter (whether in a huge supermarket, in a restaurant or from the dairy) for human consumption it should be pasteurized. This is a regulation that ultimately saves the health care system money because they don't have to treat a preventable illness. But if people insist on acquiring it, then maybe there should be a giant tax on it to cover the cost of subsidizing treatment for the illness that will surely result.
      • Stop
        Stop asking the govt to protect you. It's not their job. Their proper role is to protect freedom. Freedom like the right to drink raw milk if one so desires. I take the libertarian approach. Also, why do humans drink cow milk? No other mammals drink the breast milk of another mammal. Cow milk is essentially the breast milk a cow produces for it's baby calves. Don't believe everything the Dairy Association tells you. Drinking milk is not essential. You can get Vitamin D and calcium from many other sources. Always question the mainstream.
      • Follow Raw Milk Regulations
        With Cow Share programs; it is required that the person using the raw milk pick it up at the farm. This gives the person an opportunity to see the condition of the milking facilities and the health of the cows. To many farmers are skirting around that know; because of the demand. I would never drink raw milk from a farm where I do not know the farmers or know the facilities.
      • Chemical Impurities
        Not to mention the filthy and contaminated environments most dairy farms employ, what's even worse is the frequent use of growth hormones and antibiotics - clearly NOT what God intended (that's why cows desire to eat grass and not corn). Haven't you ever wondered why our childrens' bodies are developing earlier and unexplained sicknesses are showing up especially for our seniors. DO NOT trust major brands such as Kraft, Perdue, Tyson, their ONLY objective is profit and at the expense of the consumer. Also, our government continues to prove the only thing it can do right is collect taxes - do NOT put your family's safety in the hands of the FDA .
      • LOL
        Do your research. Your title tells me that you don't trust raw milk. Then don't drink it. I, like some others here, did my research, know the farmer I get my milk from, and trust that I am drinking a great product. It's like anything else in life. What you are proposing through taxes is a form of insurance against me getting bad milk and getting sick. Can the government tax people that send their sick kids to school and get my children sick??? Of course not. That is absurd. So is taxing milk that I buy from someone I know.
      • More and Better Information
        There are valid arguments for stricter regulation of raw milk by state and federal authorities, but such arguments assume a level of comfort with government regulation that obviously many libertarians do not share. So putting aside that proposal for the time being, I'd suggest that regardless of our politics, we should all be able to agree that consumers should be fully informed when making choices about raw milk consumption. It is a disservice to their cause when raw milk advocates deny the risks inherent in raw milk consumption, and when they deny the plain facts of outbreaks like the one underway. I would be far less inclined to challenge a "right to free choice" if I were confident that consumers would receive necessary warnings about the risks of raw milk for vulnerable individuals like young children, the elderly, or the immuno-compromised. Healthy adults may indeed have the right to eat and drink whatever they want, but it is irresponsible not to warn mothers that raw milk (like many other, legal, foods) might not be a safe choice for their children.

        • thanks
          Nice post Patrick

          I didn't realize this site would have so many loonies but your well-reasoned approach was nice - thanks.
        • Raw Milk Controversey Foams Again
          I think the government needs to keep their nose out of it. I grew up drinking raw milk from my cousins' dairy and I don't recall that I became ill from doing so. Let's use some common sense here. Our government allows our big grocery store chains to sell us fruits and vegetables from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Canada, etc. Who knows how those countries chemically treat those products but yet they are still allowed to sell to us at our grocery store. We have states such as California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, etc. that can grow those products year round, yet we go out of this country to get those fruits and vegetables. It makes me sick. We have many farmers in the US who have beef, pork and chicken, yet we get our meat from Mexico, Argentina and Canada. We have some of our seafood brought in from China. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS?? Instead of worrying about raw dairy (which has been proven to be healthy), why arenâ??t we worried about what is really concerningâ?¦â?¦getting our food from countries where the use of chemicals on our food is not scrutinized at the level it is here in the US.
        • Exactly!
          That is my experience exactly. I live in Pennsylvania where we have a program that certifies raw milk bottlers. I buy from three farms - two Amish and one Mennonite. I make it a habit to check out the milking operation and talk to the farmers. All three take great pride in their milk products and run clean, well-tended farms. I have great confidence in their product and the health benefits of a natural product from grass fed cows that are not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
        • Then there should be a huge tax on Coke and McDonalds
          You argue that there should be a giant tax on raw milk because of the (miniscule) risk that consumers would get sick from it. By that argument, there should be a huge tax on products containing high fructose corn syrup and garbage foods like those peddled by the fast food merchants. Those foods are contributing immensely to the poor health of the American population.
        • Raw Goat Milk replacement for Raw Cow Milk

          I know raw milk is MUCH better for
          you than what is pasteurized. It
          is not easily digestible. But then
          again, goat milk is the milk most
          like human milk. If cow milk is
          not going to be sold freely, for
          those who choose. Like, people
          still have a choice to by antibiotic
          infested... not realizing the
          affects it has on the reproductive
          system (which is much worse
          than getting sick with a bit
          of fever - that doesn't cause
          death like cancer forming
          pasteurized forms of milk
          and other various products.
          I will then take the next
          best choice and buy raw
          goat milk. It is legal
          in michigan. Cow milk
          is good raw... but not
          as good as goat milk
          by far. Ya just have
          to get used to the sweet
          heavy taste of it's cream.
          Like anything else... our
          government will continue
          to take away free choice
          until Kingdom Come.
          • Government safety? Really?
            This government that is supposedly trying to protect us from raw milk is the same government that others have referred to that has legalized the use of high fructose corn syrup and MSG and sodium lauryl sulphate,... They don't know the first thing about health or food. Again, referring to someone elses post, they need to stick to the goal they are elected to protect...FREEDOM.

            There are millions more people getting and living sick because of things they have endorsed and "certified." It is absurd!
          • and
            add Aspartame to that partial list you've got there.
            • What??
              Since when was the government in charge of protecting me from myself? They still allow tobacco to be sold. They still allow alcohol to be sold. I'm a moral prude who abstain from both those substances but I still don't think it is the government's job to ban them. I don't need a nanny, thanks.

              As a sidenote--the whole pro-egg, anti-egg campaigns make me really doubt scientific evidence on any food.
            • Thank you SB
              aspartame...which is maiming and killing more people than tobacco could hope to!
            • Where's the proof?
              In January 2009, 470+ people were sickened by tainted peanut butter from a regulated facility. So far, 3 samples have been tested from the Middlebury farm (from the lot that was supposed to have made people sick) and no campylobacter has been found. Drink it or don't, but use your brain to make the decision, not the news.
            • Hypocrisy
              Why is it that it is perfectly legal and encouraged to buy cigarettes that everyone knows kill hundreds of thousands of people every year, yet we can't buy raw milk because a few people have died from it???
            • facts can be tricky little things
              I find it quite sad that all the news articles I have read about the dangers of raw milk has used the FDA's stat of 800 illnesses since 1998 as a trump card. Alright, so in the last 12 years, an average of 68 people per get sick from drinking raw milk? This would be damning evidence if you believe that only a small number of people consume the raw stuff. There are no cold, hard numbers, but I'm going to guess it's easily in the 10s of thousands.

              Another silly argument I hear quite often is the "cow's milk is for baby cows, no other animal drinks milk from another species". OK, following that argument, no other animal cooks their meat or veggies, or makes creme brulee, or harvests wheat to make bread, or drinks whiskey or tea. Oh, they also don't watch tv, or drive cars, or wear clothing. So I guess we shouldn't do those things either, right? We should stick with a purely raw, rudimentary diet and walk around naked. Brilliant!
            • Test Results
              What is so disgusting is that the government supposedly does all this testing and they come up with the patients had bacterial contamination and the common denominator was raw milk. This is placed in every newspaper in both states. The government then takes samples of the milk and runs tests on that.
              they also run tests on the milk that had been sold the week that they supposedly all became ill. The milk is negative for the bacteria they claim has made everyone ill.
              Does that get splashed across the paper... NO
              You are hard pressed to find anything on the milk tests being negative. The Big Milk farmers are threatened by people like Mr.
              Hochstetler and Mr. Hebron.

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