This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 7:49am and is filed under Parenting, Food Safety, Local, Organic foods, Agriculture, Health, Farming, Food Production. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Since April, there have been 613 people identified as infected with Salmonella St. Paul in this country. For the most part, consumers have embraced the warnings and precautions put out by the FDA. (btw, Barfblog has an excellent collection of posts on this subject, including suggestions for ensuring safety of farmer’s market tomatoes).
From 1998-2005 there were 831 illnesses reported from unpasturized (raw) milk and cheese. Considering the number of people eating tomatoes vs. consuming raw milk, the per-consumer illness rate has got to be much higher for milk. Yet, government intervention in raw milk sales is not met with nearly the same attitude as seen in the case of tomatoes. Why?
For one thing, milk is probably the most emotion-charged food there is. It is so closely associated with children and wholesomeness that is it literally a “sacred cow” when it comes to safety, adulteration, regulation, hormones, antibiotics…. I’ve seen more conflicting statistics quoted about raw milk than almost any other food topic I’ve researched. (What’s that saying about lies, damned lies and statistics?). It’s hard to find a balanced piece of reporting on this topic, but there was one in the Seattle PI recently.
Raw milk advocates abound, and have some valid, or at least interesting points. For one thing, it DOES taste better (IMHO). There are claims of it being less of an allergen, easier to digest, and more healthful in a number of ways. There are a number of sites promoting raw milk. Sadly, most of them seem so fanatical, that I find it hard have faith in their statements and facts. If any of you know of good, sound, science-based raw milk sites or references, please let me know!
So, I’m not going to give you a pat yes or no answer on raw milk. If you choose to go raw, I will advise you to at least be sure of the following:
- purchase from a state-certified dairy (this is one reason I hate to see states outlaw raw milk-it turns it into an unregulated black-market item)
- be absolutely certain the milk is chilled immediately (this is not just stuck in the refrigerator, it is chilled in the equivalent of a circulating ice bath)
- drink your raw milk before it is a week old (the sooner the better). This means a week from when it was milked, NOT purchased!
- Be sure your dairy is testing routinely for coliform and other bacterial contaminants
- visit the dairy, if possible, before you trust their product. i.e. know your producer
I grew up on the raw milk produced by my family’s traditional dairy farm. We drank the milk from our bulk milk tank; it was not pasteurized until it got to the processing plant. BUT, I’m not even tempted to buy raw milk now. The primary reason is that without pasteurization, I am completely reliant on the producer to ensure that my milk is safe. In addition, the raw milk I grew up on was consumed within 24-48 hours of milking. I find it extremely difficult to trust raw milk from a dairy shelf in the health food store. I do know some local, certified raw milk dairies from which I would be comfortable purchasing. They all have waiting lists for customers.