“It’s a tad awkward writing an assessment of a debate in which I was a participant…so here are a few random reactions to the raw milk debate at Harvard Law School Thursday evening. (If you missed it, you can view the recording on YouTube; it should be up shortly.)
* The two opponents–Heidi Kassenborg of the Minnnesota Department of Agriculture’s dairy division, and Fred Pritzker, a personal injury lawyer–handled well the audience’s clear pro-raw-milk leaning. Kasselbon said upfront, “I am probably not going to be able to persuade you.” Pritzker asked for a show of hands of those who favored raw milk, and was good humored when most everyone raised their hands.
* I thought Pritzker trivialized the argument of food rights. “There is no fundamental right in the Constitution that provides a right to do what you want.” I explained during the question period that the Constitution doesn’t mention food because no one at the time could imagine that the government would seek to prevent us from accessing particular foods, in effect leaving the matter in judicial and legislative hands.
* Though it wasn’t truly a debate as such, there was some good back-and-forth, such as about European studies that show raw milk reduces asthma and allergies in children. Kassenborg pointed out that the study authors have hedged their findings by warning of raw milk’s dangers. Sally Fallon responded that the authors likely have to include such language to get the studies published.
* Neither of our opponents was willing to go near the CDC data I provided showing raw milk illnesses to account for something on the order one-half of one percent of total foodborne illnesses–impressive when you consider that three per cent of the population is projected by the CDC to consume raw milk. Their idea of “data” was to quote all the health care associations that are against raw milk. Did they not want to deal with the quantitative data because it so clearly contradicts their argument?
* Kassenborgbegan her presentation by showing photos of herself as a child, growing up on a farm. “I drank raw milk a lot, but I wouldn’t drink it now.” The reason: “We have new diseases,” the primary one being E.coli O157:H7. I don’t know why, but that observation grates: Raw milk was okay for me, but it’s not okay for any of you. …”