We live in a world in which “scientific proof” is often sold to the highest bidder — usually corporations who can fund those expensive double-blind clinical studies. Perhaps you have a profitable new drug that you’d like to bring to market. Or maybe your product’s market share is being threatened by a natural competitor that no one can figure out how to make money providing — and you’d like to “blacklist” it in the public mind. If you’ve got the money, there will be a scientist who’ll craft you a study to prove what you need proven. See the blog Science for Sale for cases in point.
Anecdotal evidence on the other hand, is widely disparaged these days as unscientific, but it’s something that makes sense to people, and it’s often the only kind of evidence that researchers whose research subjects don’t interest corporate sponsors will have access to. Dave Milano has some great things to say in praise of anecdotal evidence in a recent comment on this Complete Patient post:
“In a somewhat playful letter published eight years ago in the British medical journal The Lancet, a physician made several comments regarding the value of anecdote that warmed my heart. He acknowledged that publication in a modern medical journal is “unlikely to follow anecdotal observation” but also made the point that a mere couple of generations ago, during a time when, not incidentally, many important medical discoveries were being made, it was very common to rely on anecdote as a base for decision making, and for inclusion in respected medical literature. Here is a quote from his letter:
“Observations can be criticized for being anecdotal. However, in the search for greater scientific objectivity, the habit of curiosity, once the very quintessence of medical discovery, may be lost.”
The current inability (unwillingness?) of modern medicine to acknowledge the great and terrible “big picture” of modern population’s increasingly failing health indeed shows that the very quintessence of medical discovery has been lost. That vast empty hole has been filled with a dogmatic closed-mindedness, evidenced by blind trust in—even worship of—narrow, double-blind, controlled-variable studies. The trees have truly obliterated the forest.
Randomized studies can be valuable, but they are emphatically NOT all they are touted to be, especially when driven, as they undoubtedly are, by a near religious faith in early detection and medical management with drugs and surgeries as a solution for bad health….”
We’ve been monitoring online stories that refer to raw milk for more than three months now and we’ve never seen so much anti-raw-milk “news” as in the last few days. Usually the only people who bother to post about raw milk on the internet are fans who have good things to say about it, or else it’s stories about how it’s being suppressed by regulators.
David E. Gumpert makes an astute observation in his recent post on the Complete Patient that the recent spate of news stories denying any health benefits of raw milk and playing up the health risks, is a sign that someone out there is feeling threatened by the growth in popularity that raw milk is experiencing. Here’s a bit of what he says:
“I think it’s safe to say we are witnessing a trend, or shall we say an assault, by the science-medical establishment, on raw milk. In just the last few weeks, there have been warnings/criticisms of raw milk consumption from Harvard Medical School, the American Academy of Pediatricians (per my previous post), and now, Clinical Infectious Diseases.
You might argue that these are random occurrences, except that they use very similar language in arguing that raw milk is dangerous (“a serious health hazard”) and that there is no evidence of health benefits (“no scientific evidence supports…”). The new wrinkles in this one: that an increase to five-plus incidents of illness annually is big news, as Don Neeper points out following my previous post, and “that those who are opposed to pasteurization have found ways to circumvent the law and obtain raw milk…” So raw milk drinkers aren’t just reckless, they are sleazy criminals.
Steve Bemis suggests there may be holes in the data, and he’s probably right. But I don’t think the people who are publishing this stuff really worry about the sanctity of their data. They are part of a propaganda campaign based on the notion that if you repeat a lie often enough, the public will eventually believe it, and you also turn your opponents into scapegoats….”.
Read the whole thing here. The comments are worth reading as well.
That Clinical Infectious Diseases report David refers to is turning up all over the place. Here’s one example:
“With disease outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk rising in the United States, a review published in the January 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases examines the dangers of drinking raw milk.
Milk and dairy products are cornerstones of a healthy diet. However, if those products are consumed unpasteurized, they can present a serious health hazard because of possible contamination with pathogenic bacteria. An average of 5.2 outbreaks per year linked to raw milk have occurred in the United States between 1993 and 2006—more than double the rate in the previous 19 years, according to co-authors Jeffrey T. LeJeune and Päivi J. Rajala-Schultz of the College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio.
Contamination can occur at the time of collection, processing, distribution, or storage of milk, the authors write. Many pathogens can be found in the dairy farm environment, which can contaminate the teat skin of dairy cows and consequently the milk at the time when cows are milked. For example, Salmonella and E. coli have been reported in pooled milk collected from farms., Outbreaks of salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and E. coli related to raw milk consumption have been reported since 2005.
Although the sale of raw milk was illegal in 26 states as of 2006, the authors note that those who are opposed to pasteurization have found ways to circumvent the law and obtain raw milk. For example, participants in “cow-share” programs pay for the upkeep of the cow and receive raw milk in exchange, rather than buying raw milk outright.
Raw milk advocates claim that unpasteurized milk cures or prevents disease, but no scientific evidence supports this notion. Testing raw milk, which has been suggested as an alternative to pasteurization, cannot ensure a product that is 100 percent safe and free of pathogens. Pasteurization remains the best way to reduce the unavoidable risk of contamination, according to the authors.”
Here’s another site, “Science Codex”, publishing the same study. Excerpt below:
“With disease outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk rising in the United States, a review published in the January 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases examines the dangers of drinking raw milk….”
Several more articles all spout the same theme:
Raw milk remains a health threat (excerpt below):
“WOOSTER, Ohio, Dec. 17 — Diseases caused by drinking unpasteurized milk remain an important public health problem in the U.S., researchers said.
Between 1993 and 2006, there were an average of 5.2 disease outbreaks a year linked to raw milk, according to Jeffrey LeJeune, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, here, and Päivi Rajala-Schultz, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio.
That’s more than double the 2.4 outbreaks a year seen in the previous 19 years, the researchers said in the Jan. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The increase may be partly attributable to better detection and reporting, but some can be blamed on increased consumption of raw milk, they argued in an invited review in the journal….”
Incidence of Raw Milk Illness on the Rise (excerpt below):
“COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 17 (UPI) —
The sale of raw milk was illegal in 26 states as of 2006, but those who oppose pasteurization have found ways to circumvent the law, U.S. reseachers say.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, finds that an average of 5.2 outbreaks per year linked to raw milk occurred in the United States from 1993 to 2006 — more than double the rate in the previous 19 years.
Study co-authors Jeffrey T. LeJeune and Paivi J. Rajala-Schultz of the College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus say one way is for people to participate in
cow-share programs. Participants pay for the upkeep of a cow and receive raw milk in exchange, rather than buying raw milk outright…..”
Unpasteurized milk poses serious health risk
“Washington, Dec 17 (ANI): Unpasteurized milk can pose a serious threat due to possible contamination with pathogenic bacteria, say researchers.
The milk can get contaminated at the time of collection, processing, distribution, or storage of milk, the authors write. Many pathogens that can be found in the dairy farm environment can contaminate the teat skin of dairy cows and consequently the milk at the time when cows are milked.
Experts have reported that presence of Salmonella and E. coli pooled milk collected from farms….”
In a recent comment on the Complete Patient blog, raw milk farmer Mark McAfee has some interesting comments about the statistics quoted in these studies:
“A dissection of the CDC and FDA raw milk illnesses is being done.
Many of the illnesses are not raw milk at all…they are raw cheese that had been heated and untested raw milk from underground sources. The CDC even included pasteurizer failures in its raw milk category….what a farce….”