“Currently sold legally in 30 states (1), raw milk is the subject of tremendous controversy and is one of the only foods that cannot be legally sold across state lines.
Recent news of E.coli being found in raw milk from dairies in California and Washington seem to reinforce the argument that the sale of raw milk should be illegal in all states.
However, before such a tremendous hit to freedoms is allowed, it’s important to take a closer look at raw milk, E.coli and our freedom to choose what we eat.
Raw milk has been consumed by people nearly from the beginning of time.
The History of Raw Milk
It is rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes that our bodies need to be healthy.
There is evidence of domestic cows being used for milk dating as far back as 4000 B.C. (4)
By definition, raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized, and technically it can come from a variety of animals including goats, sheep, yaks, camels and, of course, cows.
If it wasn’t for milk, many cultures would have had a very difficult time surviving. Ironically, this same kind of milk today has been villainized and treated as if it were a toxic substance by the federal government.
Sadly, in the 1800s, milk was a dangerous product. Dairy cows were confined and fed the by-products left over from the distilling of whiskey and other alcohol in what was known as distillery dairies (2,3).
These cows were dirty, unkept and diseased. Equipment used for gathering milk was just as dirty and the people in charge of the milking were no better.
After being forced to eat distillery swill, milk from these cows was not only deficient of nutrients, it was downright deadly.
People, especially infants, were dying from tuberculosis, typhoid and other diseases that flourished in the unhygienic conditions of the distillery dairies.
Making Milk Healthy Again
Pasteurization was introduced as a solution. It was a good way to kill any pathogens in substandard milk as well as other foods.
However, another solution was founded by Dr. Henry Coit, whose own son died from contaminated milk.
Dr. Coit spearheaded the Medical Milk Commission and supported the certified milk movement. Dr. Coit, and other doctors, knew that raw milk from healthy, gass-fed cows was not only healthy, but it was frequently recommended to treat patients with various ailments. (3)
New York businessman Nathan Straus, who also lost a child to contaminated milk, felt pasteurization was the only way to make milk safe for the public. He used his wealth to create milk depots for the purpose of pasteurizing milk. (5)
It seemed that safe milk was back to stay until big businesses saw potential profits disappear, as people bought raw milk directly from the farm instead of from commercial companies that pasteurized their milk.
They declared war by implementing a smear campaign from 1944 to 1946 to falsely convince the public that raw milk would kill them.
The Modern Milk War
The milk war of the 1940s is very similar to the battle of milk today.
Raw milk producers insist that healthy cows and sanitary equipment will produce safe, healthy milk. Big corporations and the federal government insist the only truly safe milk is milk that has been pasteurized.
Interestingly, the recent case of an E. coli outbreak due to raw milk from Organic Pastures, a California dairy, appeared as skewed as the smear campaign in the 1940s.
While the people who became sick did consume raw milk, the milk products collected from the victims’ families and tested by the Department of Public Health were found to have no E.coli.
In the case of the E. coli outbreak believed to be caused from milk from Cozy Valley Creamery in Washington, the contamination was not directly from the milk, but from contaminated processing areas. (7)
In fact, even the CDC’s claim of deaths resulting from raw milk have been proven false. (8) No one has ever died from raw milk in the last 11 years.
According to the Weston Price Foundation, pasteurized milk causes 29 times more illness from listeria than raw milk. Since 1993, there have been no cases of illness caused by listeria from raw milk. (9)
But what about E. coli, the bacteria responsible for the recent illnesses connected to raw milk?
While it is certainly possible for raw milk to be contaminated with E.coli, it is also far more common for other foods to be contaminated.
E. coli is frequently found on lettuce, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, beef and many other healthy foods. These foods are freely sold all over the country with no one raising so much as an eyebrow.
The E.coli bacteria lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Infection with E.coli can result in diarrhea and stomach pain and, in those with weak immune systems such as children or the elderly, it can result in death.
It can be spread when people don’t wash their hands after using the restroom or after changing a baby’s diaper.
It can also be spread when animals are kept on filthy factory farms instead of being raised on open pasture.
Does that mean free-range animals are immune to E.coli? Not at all. Animals are animals and they are known to walk in their own excrement.
Because of this, the bacteria can certainly be found on the udders of milk cows.
Pasteurization will most likely kill this bacteria. Making sure the animals and equipment are sterilized before milking will have the same effect.
Just like in the 1800s, if cows are kept clean and healthy, their milk is safe. And just like in the 1940s, big business wants to shut down small, local dairies who provide raw milk to consumers.
Freedom to Choose
Raw milk advocates cite many health benefits to drinking raw milk. They also resent the federal government for trying to take away their ability to choose what foods they want to eat.
E.coli has been found on a wide variety of foods and no one is trying to ban those foods.
Yet selling raw milk is considered a crime in some places. Should the government be allowed to chose what people can and cannot eat?
Consider this. The FDA recently said that Diamond brand walnuts were being sold illegally as drugs when the company simply stated the proven health benefits of walnuts. (10)
Yet, they are okay with potato chips being labeled as “heart-healthy snacks.”…”
One response to “Modern milk war and food freedom”
this writer should get clear that e coli is a large family of bacteria, most of which are essential if not harmless to human digestion. A few strains are mutated strains, and a concern, but they do not typically live in healthy cows. H157-o7 for instance. This very large distinction is not made by lay commentators and it should be, it shows their lack of knowledge with their subject.