Friday, April 9, 2010

The bias against raw milk.

Eighteen people in southern Michigan recently became ill with campylobacter.  All 18 of them had drunk raw milk from a CSA that gets their milk from a farmer in Middlebury, IN.   "CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The CSA members are shareholders in the dairy herd that provides the milk, and so can legally drink milk from their own cows.

There are 900 families in this CSA, representing a few thousand people who drink this milk.  Let's say that each family consists on average of three people.  That is 2700 people getting this milk.  Eighteen people got campylobacter.  Two thousand six hundred and eighty-two of them didn't.  The milk was immediately tested.  It tested negative for campylobacter.

As usual, the government inspectors, in all of their wisdom, said, "It's the raw milk.  Case closed."  Even though there was no campylobacter in the milk, even though the vast majority of the people who drank this milk remained healthy, it had to be the milk.

Of the 18 people who were ill, eleven of them attended a potluck where Caesar Salad, made with raw egg, was served.  No eggs were tested.  As I said, the case was closed, the culprit identified, and no official looked any further.  It is said that as many as 70% of supermarket chickens contain campylobacter.  We all know to cook chicken thoroughly, but what if the cutting board isn't properly cleaned and then is used to cut up an onion for a salad, or a knife is accidentally used without being thoroughly washed after touching raw chicken?  None of those things were looked into.

Between 1990 and 2004, a CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) report shows a much greater risk from consuming the following foods:

31,496 illnesses, 639 outbreaks from produce (38%)
16,280 illnesses, 541 outbreaks from poultry (20%)
13,220 illnesses, 467 outbreaks from beef (16%)
11,027 illnesses, 341 outbreaks from eggs (13%)
9,969 illnesses, 984 outbreaks from seafood (12%)

And yet raw milk remains the "problem child."  

Here are some more statistics I looked up after this latest attack on raw milk.  I was interviewed by a local TV station, I read these statistics during the interview, and they were ignored of course.  Why did I think it would be any different?  Anyway, chew on these figures.

Since 1992, here are some causes of death in the US.

Raw milk - 2
Radish sprouts - 3
Spinach - 5
PASTEURIZED milk - 620
Automobile accidents - About 680,000
Alcohol related illnesses - About 300,000
Alcohol related accidents, homicides and suicides (some of these are included in auto accidents) - About 400,000
Deaths related to smoking - About 7,225,000

If you are worried about drinking raw milk because you think it might kill you, I will ask if you are driving a car, if you smoke or spend time around people who are smoking, if you take a drink every now and then.  I will also ask if you are eating produce, poultry, beef, eggs and seafood. And finally, are you consuming pasteurized milk, spinach and radish sprouts?  If you can answer "no" to all of these questions, then I suppose maybe you had better stay away from raw milk.

Now I am going to the kitchen and having my morning glass of homemade raw milk kefir.  Ah, the stuff of life!

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