When Good Milk goes Bad

One of the many odd things that are occurring in this repudiation of corporate food products is that many people are questioning previously held beliefs and discovering that some foods *gasp* used to taste better.

The best example of the above comes from the raw milk crowd. As reported in this Arizona Republic article:

consumer demand is brisk. Nationally and in Arizona, people are breaking the law to get their hands on raw organic milk, claiming it is superior in health and taste to the pasteurized, homogenized milk found on the supermarket shelf. They swear it tastes like melted vanilla ice cream.

There’s also a perceived health benefit from drinking raw milk, as some claim that “the beverage as the cure for everything from allergies and asthma to eczema and cancer”.

Most of these claims are most likely bogus, as there’s been no definitive test of raw milk against the above. Any claim of the health benefits of raw milk should be looked upon with great suspicion.

But there is the question of taste. Having tasted raw milk recently, both goat and cow, I can say that there is an obvious difference of taste between pasteurized and unpasteurized, my preference being for the latter.

So if we can rule out health benefits, the issue of raw milk comes down to the following two questions:

  1. How dangerous is it?
  2. Is the taste of raw milk worth the risk?

The issue with the first question is that no one can offer an unbiased, scientific report on raw milk. Without a clear answer to the first question, it makes it impossible to answer the second.

Of course there’s the government’s point of view. Here in Washington State, they require all raw milk sold commercially to have the farm where the milk is produced licensed through the state, and require monthly testing of the milk and inspection of the farm and milk bottling room.

Also, each bottle must contain a warning label stating “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product.”

About that warning label: It should be noted that pregnant women, children, the elderly, and persons with lowered resistance to disease also have a risk of disease from eggs, sushi, sage, and rare meat, and yet these products do not need to such warnings…yet.

Of course, people will say that raw milk has an increased risk of carrying salmonella and E. Coli. Yet so do bean sprouts and bags of lettuce. But is the risk more or less when compared against these products? All we get are shrugs and “I dunno’s”.

And the federal government? It’s difficult to take anything they say with great seriousness when they’re so compromised by their ties to Dean Dairy and the Dairy Lobby — who have a great stake in ensuring small farmers do not take away their customers.

What I would like to see is an honest debate where the following questions are answered:

  • How safe is Raw Milk?
  • Can the risks of raw milk be mitigated by the sanitary operations of the respective dairy?
  • If the risks can be mitigated by sanitary operations, how safe will raw milk be in comparison to pasteurized milk?
  • Is raw milk more or less dangerous than eggs, sushi, sage, rare meat, bean sprouts or bags of lettuce?

My suspicion is that a lot of the above will never be answered. That being said, I do plan on drinking raw milk in the future. But then, I thrive on taking risks. Even if it means that I’ll have to deal with Johnny Law on occasion

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Milk, Raw Milk

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