“Organic and raw food diets – the debate rages on as to whether these diets are healthy or merely healthier. Raw food supporter and producer, Michael Schmidt, has taken this diet debate to a legal level in the court proceedings dubbed the “Raw Milk Trial.”
Since 1991, the sale of raw milk directly to consumers has been prohibited in Canada under the Food and Drug Regulations. However, this didn’t stop Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt from selling it. For those who haven’t been paying attention to this case, here is the summary: Schmidt made a deal where his customers could own part of the cow; thus, acquire raw milk. In November 2006, under violation of the Milk Act, Schmidt’s farm was raided; his equipment seized; and he faced 20 charges related to illegally producing, storing and distributing raw milk. His fate has still not yet been decided, the final arguments have been postponed until May (for Schmidt) and June (for the prosecution).
Is all this to-do really necessary? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to drink raw milk at our own risk? We can procure raw meats and shellfish. I mean, no one’s being hauled off to court for selling carpaccio, oysters, or sushi are they? Consumers know the risks of consuming these foods. Heck, consumers of alcohol and tobacco certainly are aware of the risks – perhaps this part of the debate is better left out, the government would be deprived of their substantial SIN tax.
In fact, humans have been consuming raw milk much longer than pasteurized. Pasteurization was not used until 1890 in the United States after the discovery of contagious bacterial diseases including bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis that could be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk. Thus, pasteurization made raw milk from any source safer to consume, whether infected or not. However, farm sanitation has greatly improved and effective testing has been developed for bovine tuberculosis and other diseases, but pasteurization continues to be used.
Pasteurization is still needed. In an industrial diary farming system, where milk from thousands of cows coming from farms with varying health and hygienic conditions, are all pooled together, pasteurization acts as a stopgap in case infectious milk from a mismanaged farm should enter the food supply.
Yet, what about in a non-industrial setting, should raw milk be consumed in that context? In fact it is. All over the world, raw milk is produced at small farms to be consumed by local communities. Milk is typically consumed unpasteurized in rural areas of Europe, and raw milk can typically be found in small amounts at stores in large cities. In England, registered producers can sell raw milk. Approximately 200 of these registered farms sell unpasteurized milk either at the farm or through delivery service. The conditions being placed on these farms is that they must conform to higher hygiene standards than dairies producing only pasteurized milk, and the bottles of milk must display the warning: “this product has not been heat-treated and may contain organisms harmful to health.” (Similar to a warning label on cigarettes).
Supporters of raw milk say the pasteurization process kills beneficial micro organisms that aid in digestion and metabolization. They also say that pasteurization destroys enzymes; diminishes vitamin content; is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer….”