Today Sustain Ontario hosted a debate, which was more like a conversation about raw milk, and the political climate surrounding in it. The debate over raw milk has been going on for over 20 years in Canada. We tend to hear more about the USA on our news casts and have all been following the debates and raids in the USA with great interest. It is time that Canadians get involved in our own food rights actions and educate ourselves. This webinar was a great way to learn about the issues surrounding raw milk from both sides of the belief system. All the participants were knowledgeable, courteous and articulate. It was a very good discussion of all the aspects surrounding the debate about raw milk. The webinar will be archived on the Sustain Ontario site shortly for those of you who were not able to see it.
There have been comments that this was not purely a Canadian debate because Sally Fallon and Dr. Ted Beals are both Americans. If we had two such strong personalities who would speak on behalf of raw milk in Canada we would have asked them. There simply isn’t anyone else as knowledgeable about the benefits of raw milk as Sally Fallon and Dr. Beals has spent years studying and researching this food. We were very fortunate to have these two professionals agree to speak to us here in Canada.
The other four participants were all Canadian. We had a dairy board farmer, John VanDyk, as one of the raw milk proponents and two high credentialed medical professionals and a Canadian lawyer on the panel. For a full outline of each persons credentials have a look at this link http://sustainontario.com/2012/05/22/10428/blog/news/the-udder-truth-an-opening-dialogue-on-the-risks-and-opportunities-of-unpasteurized-milk
Unfortunately we seem to have to turn to the USA for statistics and speakers as Canada has not been as active in working towards a raw milk solution as the country south of our border has. Nor does our government keep track of illness to the same extent as the CDC in the US. Even our public health professionals use US statistics more often than Canadian ones.
So was it a Canadian debate when 2 of the 6 participants were not Canadian? Of course it was. The issues discussed are, to a large extent, universal and we had the added benefit of hearing a Canadian perspective at long last.
I will outline some of the points that caught my attention when listening to this debate. I encourage the reader to listen to the whole debate themselves when it is available on the Sustain website as these are my observations and comments based on my own bias. You will find a wealth of information on the webinar with which to form your own observations. The value of these types of debates or discussions is not limited to bringing attention to a subject but also, if we listen closely, there is always something to learn. There are a few things I will be investigating further in the coming weeks thanks to the speakers today.
Dr. Mansel Griffiths said that pasteurization was introduced in the 1800′s in response to Pasteur’s germ theory. In the mid 50′s the temperature was increased in the pasteurization process. One thing I would be interested in more information about is the micro filtration option that Dr. Griffiths spoke briefly about. If this option does not heat the milk, it might be a good compromise and is worth investigating further. He also suggested that the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can be found in raw milk? I have never heard this before and would love more information on this.
As a GAPS (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) practitioner, John VanDyk’s presentation was of particular interest to me. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride cured her own son of autism using this nutritional protocol and we are seeing many main stream doctors becoming interested in her work. Dr. Campbell-McBride is a neurologist and food scientist. She recommends as part of her protocol, raw milk yogurt, ghee, butter and kefir. In fact these raw dairy products are a main part of her protocol because of the increased good bacteria. John spoke about his son who has autism and how this has motivated him to produce A2 milk. I agree with him that there is a need in the marketplace for at least yogurt and kefir made from this milk and that the parents of an autistic child should have the ability to source it without going to the black market. The GAPS protocols work and we will see in future that this ground breaking work will be accepted by the main stream sceptics. John outlined two scenarios whereby he feels that raw milk could be produced safely under the current supply management system. There is lots of contention amongst farmers about how raw milk should be produced and in what context it should be allowed. That issue is too long for this report and a subject for another time.
Sally Fallon-Morell spoke of research that was done in the 1930′s and 40′s that proves that pasteurization creates problems in animals. Dr. Griffiths stated that the higher temperature pasteurization didn’t come into effect until the 1950′s so in my book that means that the old research holds more weight in that at lower pasteurization temperatures it was causing weaker bones and immune systems. Therefore how can higher temperatures not be damaging? Grass feeding as the only way to produce raw milk for human consumption was stressed. Also the fact that raw milk has never killed anyone in either our country or the USA while other food born illness has killed. The main thing that I would like to reiterate here is a statement that Sally Fallon made near the end of her presentation. If the scientists who are against raw milk think the old research done on rats and calves is not accurate in todays circumstances then why not do that research again and see what we come up with? Her question asked what are the scientists afraid of? I would really like to see Health Canada fund this type of research so that we have something solid to go by and I too wonder why this hasn’t been done in either country.
Dr. Rosana Pellazzari explained that Toronto was the first city to require that milk be pasteurized in 1915. She indicated that many people, and children in particular, where dying because of raw milk back then. I always find this interesting when health officials leave out the aspect of where that milk was coming from. Milk from confinement cows fed swill from alcohol plants was a very different substance than the milk from grass based farms. At the time there were scientists and medical doctors who understood this difference and advocated for a clear distinction between this milk and clean milk. For a very well written paper on this and more on the history of raw milk please see Pam Killeen’s Position Paper on Raw Milk at this link. http://pamkilleen.com/app/download/6577744904/POSITION%2BPAPER%2BON%2BTHE%2BDEBATE%2BOVER%2BRAW%2BMILK%2BSAFETY-3.pdf
Dr. Ted Beals explained that raw milk destined for pasteurization is a very different product than raw milk meant for drinking without heating. He asserted that there has been an organized campaign to demonize raw milk and that campaign has been backed by the dairy industry itself. Out of an estimated 10 million people drinking raw milk in the USA, an average of 48 people a year are suspected of being sickened from their milk. Of those people an average of 28 people are confirmed sick from milk per year. These numbers do not show high risk. The bottom line is nobody has died from raw milk. People have died from other foods that are still allowed on the market so the question is why the crackdown on raw milk. It does sound plausible that this could all be about money and not health. Conspiracy theory as someone suggested? I guess it depends on what side of the fence you sit on. From my side of this fence, I see conspiracy theory written all over this whole raw milk issue. Perhaps I’m wrong but I agree with Dr. Beals, there is way more to this issue than health concerns. Dr. Beals suggested we look at the Michigan Fresh Unpasteurized Milk Working Group website at this link http://www.miffs.org/MIfuwmilk/
The presentation by Sara Zborovski, a Canadian lawyer, was very interesting to me. She explained the current laws and explained what happened with Michael Schmidt and his attempt to create a loophole in the law. Her explanation of the Family Farm Exemption and how that might be used in a court of law was enlightening. I hope all of you reading this will listen to her presentation carefully. It seems that one of the issues that concerned the court in Michael Schmidt’s case was that the people who allegedly owned the cows had no written contract, no contact with those cows and did not have a legal bill of sale for those cows. The question then is, could this law be challenged if a consumer actually purchased a particular cow with a legitimate bill of sale and hired the farmer to care for that cow allowing the owner to acquire raw milk from their own animal. What if there was a legal agreement between farmer and consumer to this effect? Interesting question indeed.
My question was and still is, with a black market for raw milk growing exponentially in Canada, is it not better to allow these farmers to come above the radar? Is it not better if raw milk farmers are required to do basic testing and follow some hygiene requirements? The black market for raw milk will continue regardless of officials raiding farms. Those tactics are not going to work any better in Canada than they are in the USA. This whole process is costing governments hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be better spent hunting down real criminals rather than attacking farmers. My opinion on this is that if someone wants raw milk badly enough to sign a contract with a farmer, they are willing to take responsibility for their own health and are not a public health threat. Canada needs to get with the times and allow consumers to decide what they eat. We pride ourselves on being a free country and yet we let health officials dictate our food to us. The unrest is obvious in the USA and it is happening here in Canada as well. This food freedom issue is growing quickly in both countries. It is time for change.
All in all this webinar was a great success from my point of view. We had a discussion about a subject that has been taboo in Canada for far too long. Just the fact that we managed to bring together professionals from both sides of the raw milk debate to discuss this is an awesome accomplishment. Thank you Sustain Ontario and Carolyn Young for providing the platform to do this from and for your excellent job in moderating and hosting this event. Thank you to all the participants for your excellent job in providing information for the public on this issue.
I see a future where raw milk is available under some kind of private agreement between farmer and consumer. We just need to keep at it.
Margo McIntosh, RHN, RNCP, CGP – Food Activist