“Stupid to drink raw milk from cows” — Mississauga man who says he caught TB from milk as a child in 1938

Here’s a well-written bit of counterpoint, which we are including here for journalistic balance. It’s from a blog titled “Dahn Batchelor’s Opinions”. The other day I was talking to a friend about raw milk and he suggested that the reason raw milk was such a tough sell with regulators in Ontario is because we in this province have some sort of collective memory of TB-related milk health issues from several decades back. Which would be the kind of thing this author is describing. Which is why you might find this worth reading, even though it’s so virulently anti-raw-milk. Here are some excerpts:

“Dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was in a Newmarket, Ontario court on September 10, 2008 fighting contempt of court charges for allegedly distributing unpasteurized milk in the area he lives in. York Region’s health services department first prohibited Schmidt from distributing raw milk in December 2006. Five months later, it served Schmidt with an order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice prohibiting him from contravening the 2006 directive. The authorities maintained that Schmidt, who runs an organic farm in the town of Durham in York Region, was in contempt of court because he failed to obey that previous court order to stop distributing raw milk within its borders. The court heard testimony from a private investigator who was hired to watch Schmidt and the activities surrounding a small bus-like vehicle which was usually parked at a Thornhill church lot. A 10-minute clip of video surveillance revealed people carrying coolers and bags from their cars onto the bus and then back to their cars.

Proponents of raw milk claim it provides health benefits and aids digestion, and they say they have the right to consume whatever they want. More than 50 of Schmidt’s supporters were at the courthouse.

The trouble facing the authorities in the region is that the region has to ensure court orders are upheld in order to protect public safety. If someone were to get sick, the victim could then turn around and say to the Regional authorities, “You guys knew what was going on and you did nothing.” This is why Schmidt was charged. He is facing another trial in January of next year.

It is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada and health officials consider it a health hazard because it can contain dangerous pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes and Tubercle bacillus. However, raw milk advocates contend that the farm-fresh product tastes better than the milk and provides myriad health benefits. The health authorities had warned the public that unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous pathogens such the ones I just mentioned.

Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium in which its symptoms may include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever such as typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, (severe gastroenteritis) and other food borne illnesses. Symptoms can start soon after eating contaminated food, but they can hit up to a month or more later. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, food borne illness can be very dangerous. I remember being struck with Salmonella twice. The first time was when I ate at a really shabby restaurant and the second time was when I was driving in southern Mexico and (are you ready for this?) I bought some chocolate milk from a young woman at a roadside stall. She had put it in a coke bottle. In both instances, I was sick for days and the sickness hit me within hours.

Escherichia coli (commonly E. coli) is a bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals including cows. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some, such as serotype O157:H7, can cause serious food poisoning in humans. In Walkerton, Ontario, starting in May 15, 2000, many residents of the town of about 5,000 began to simultaneously experience bloody diarrhea, gastrointestinal infections and other symptoms of E. coli infection. Seven people died directly from drinking the E. coli contaminated water. Recently a man in Toronto suffered from E-coli and said that the pain in his stomach felt like there was ground glass in it.

Listeriosis is a bacterial infection. It is relatively rare and occurs primarily in newborn infants, elderly patients and patients who have weakened immune systems in their body. Pregnant women account for 30% of all cases. The main route of acquisition of Listeria is through the ingestion of contaminated food products. Listeria has been isolated from raw meat, dairy products, vegetables, and seafood. Soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and unpasteurised pâté are potential dangers; however, some outbreaks involving post-pasteurized milk have been reported. There was a recent outbreak of Listeriosis in Quebec linked to raw-milk cheese that killed one person and made others ill.

Another reason why drinking unpasteurized milk is not recommended is due to the potential exposure to Tubercle bacillus which causes tuberculosis. Although TB is a lung disease in most people, it also affects other organs in at least a third of patients who have TB. People used to become infected with the bovine form of TB by drinking unpasteurised milk which contained the TB bacteria. Tuberculosis cattle with open lung lesions throw micro-droplets of the disease agent into the air by coughing. Full grown cattle are infected by the inhalation of air-borne dust particles to which the disease agent attaches itself as well as contaminated feed and water facilities. Young calves may be infected by drinking unpasteurized infected milk.

Anyone in the 1930s who ate veal from a slaughtered calf that had been infected or drank unpasterized milk would also get the disease. Approximately 2000 human deaths a year from TB were believed to have been caused by drinking contaminated milk or by being in close contact with infected cows during those years. Although it was possible to live with this infection for years, if untreated in that era (before effective drugs were available) 50% of patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis died within 2 years, and only 25% were cured. It was not until 1946 with the development of the antibiotic streptomycin that treatment rather than prevention became a possibility. Prior to then, only surgical intervention was possible however that would only be undertaken if the disease was rampant in the victim’s body. If not, a stay in a sanitarium was the method of treatment. How long the victim remained in the sanitarium was dependent on how infected the victim was. In 1938, at the age of five, I and many other children in Canada got Bovine TB and we were sent to sanitariums. I stayed in one in Weston, Ontario called the ‘Preventorium’ for almost a year before I was deemed cured.

The disease was finally brought under control by pasteurizing milk and testing animals using the tuberculin skin test. Nowadays, tests are done on slaughtered animals and virtually all milk is pasteurized or ultra-heat treated; this process kills off the TB bacteria. This is one of the main reasons pasteurization was introduced in the dairy industry many years ago when Bovine TB was more widespread.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2 billion people, one-third of the world’s population, are suffering from tuberculosis. Tuberculosis currently causes approximately 1.7 million deaths per year worldwide so it follows that this is a disease that anyone can catch. It is conceivable that people from third world countries who visit Canada and other more developed countries can quite easily get TB by merely breathing the air where a TB victim has just coughed.

That being as it is, why would anyone in their right mind increase the risk of getting TB or any of the other harmful and sometimes deadly diseases by drinking unpasteurized milk? (raw milk)…”

There’s lots more where that came from. Read it all here.

1 Comment

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One response to ““Stupid to drink raw milk from cows” — Mississauga man who says he caught TB from milk as a child in 1938

  1. Tim

    I am surprised about all this fuss about consuming raw milk. I am from India and for 40 years i have been drinking raw buffalo milk and have never had a problem. We have never heard of this nonsense of Pasteurized milk. For centuries Indians have been drinking raw milk in cities and in rural areas and never had a problem. So whats all the fuss about? Its big business to sell pasturized milk . Another greedy bullshit govt. scam . Whenever we visit India my children just adore raw buffalo milk. I read somewhere that one gets TB ,,,,, well if that was the case Indians should have been wiped out. Incidentially we are 1.3 billion and growing. Mr. Schmidt i would love to buy raw milk if you let me know your location. I also need to buy real fresh cream.

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