Raw milk: Live free or die
Posted: August 7th, 2007 - 8:19am by Doug PowellThat's the state slogan for New Hampshire, one which the raw milk foodies have adopted as a rallying cry, especially when confronted with cases of children sickened from raw milk.
But this is coming from the "vitriolic barfblog" as labeled by one advocate of all things raw.
Sure, we may be vitriolic but always point back to the microbial food safety issue and we can always cite the best available evidence.
Sally Squires of the Washington Post writes this morning that,
"From 1998 to 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied 45 outbreaks of food-borne disease to raw milk or to cheese made with unpasteurized milk. More than 1,000 people became ill, 104 were hospitalized and two died, according to the CDC."
In July, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported test results for raw milk collected from 861 farms in 21 states. Nearly a quarter contained bacteria linked to human illness, including 5 percent with listeria, 3 percent with salmonella and 4 percent with types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses. Less than 1 percent of samples had the most dangerous form of E. coli, 0157:H7.
"There are definitely measurable levels [of unhealthy bacteria] and they are probably more prevalent than what we are seeing," said Jeffrey Karns, a microbiologist at the USDA's Environmental Microbial Safety Laboratory in Beltsville, who led the study."
That doesn't bother Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a District-based organization that has been leading the charge to make raw milk available to consumers.
"We're not talking about raw milk from a typical conventional dairy," she says. "That milk could pose a danger. But milk from cows fed on pastures actually have their own antimicrobial components that keep it safe."
"People say that small farms have happy cows that don't have pathogens," Karns says, but he adds that there is no evidence to support that contention.
To concur. Sally Fallon and the foundation she represents engage in scientific cherry picking, selectively citing science and ignoring the outbreak side of the equation. E. coli O157:H7 is a natural resident of approximately 10 per cent of all ruminants -- the spinach outbreak of 2006 should have put that notion that natural is by default, better, to rest.
Back in New Hampshire, raw milk advocates are vying for looser regulations on its sale to keep up with growing demand.
But as Brae Surgeoner and I have written,
"Raw milk producers want to afford consumers more options and choice is good. But as the 19th-century English utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill noted, absolute choice has limits, stating, "If it (in this case the consumption of raw unpasteurized milk) only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself." Excused from Mill's libertarian principle are those people who are incapable of self-government — children.
Science can be used to enhance what nature provided. Further, society has a responsibility to the many — philosopher Mill also articulated how the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the one — to use knowledge to minimize harm. Adults, do whatever you think works to ensure a natural and healthy lifestyle, but please don't impose your dietary regimes on those incapable of protecting themselves: your kids."