Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Raw Milk Debate

A couple things heating up in the raw milk arena.

1. There's this article from last week's New York Times:
Crying Over Raw Milk

... that describes the passing of a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature in April, a bill that would permit sale of raw milk directly to consumers. (About 28 states currently permit raw milk sales.) The state's governor vetoed it in May. His arm may have been twisted by commercial dairy interests who don't sell raw milk and don't want the competition.

2. There's Marion Nestle's recent blog:
The raw milk fights: economics, ideology, or both?

... that also discusses the legislative tug-of-war over raw milk sales. Her take?
"... my personal choice favors pasteurization."
3. There's food safety attorney Bill Marler's new raw milk resource:
Real Raw Milk Facts

... which he describes as "a clearinghouse for evidence-based studies, presentations, commentaries, regulations, and position statements on raw milk." Marler does an incredible service to public health, although he's not held in high esteem by the raw milk community.

4. And there's this comment by Michele Simon from Nestle's blog that sums up my thoughts:
"It saddens me to see my fellow food activists taking this on. We have many more health problems related to people consuming too much dairy, of any sort, not to mention the environmental destruction and animal abuse caused by factory dairy farms all over the nation.

Instead of ensuring the “right to raw milk” for a privileged few we should be focused on outing Big Dairy’s massive brainwashing campaign that cow’s milk is an essential part of the human diet and the industry’s ongoing influence over the US dietary guidelines and food assistance programs."

Raw milk cannot be produced in quantities that make it accessible for more than a handful of people (my estimate of the size of the US raw milk community). Scaling it up would involve producing it in larger quantities, holding it, packaging it, transporting it, and shelving it. All of that increases risk for bacterial growth. You can rewash a lettuce leaf; you can't wash milk. This is why pasteurization was introduced in the first place.

As more people consume raw dairy products the risk for illness increases. There's a burden to society in the form of healthcare costs when more people get sick. My and everyone else's insurance premiums rise to cover those costs.

EB Nine from Nestle's blog put it well:
"As far as the political, “freedom of choice” argument, raw milk should be treated like any other product on the market with which there are known risks associated; it should be age restricted and should be taxed. I agree, if an adult is aware of the risks and still wants to consume the product, then let them. However, there should be a penalty (i.e. tax) if they choose to consume a product with which there are known hazards because it’s my medical premiums that are going to suffer when they end up in the hospital."
Raw milk is and will only ever be a privileged niche market.
Photo from RealRawMilkFacts.


Patrick said...

I'd love your input as someone with a science background on a post I just put up on raw milk. I'm a bit out of my depth in discussions of enzymes and the like.


Bix said...

I think you'd have to pasteurize raw milk to make sure everyone had access to it.