David Csonka put out a question about the safety of drinking raw milk in another thread, but a recent comment from another thread has led me to want to open the door to the Paleo community to discuss the differences and get some real perspectives about raw and pasteurized milk.
Of course, this is a very controversial topic, with people sitting on both sides of the fence, seemingly ready to defend their viewpoint with their very life. Advocates for pasteurized milk claim that there are very harmful bacteria strands present in raw milk that can literally kill you. The FDA has an article out that sternly warns against pregnant women drinking raw milk for risk of harming the unborn baby. In fact, it's illegal for retailers to sell raw milk to consumers in most states, leaving many people with only one option to obtain it, which is to purchase a 'cow share' from a local farm to legally circumvent the law.
But supportors of raw milk have their own strong points, claiming that unpasteurized milk from grass fed cows is a very safe and time tested whole food, so long as the farming practices and milk handling is clean and carefully controlled. The WAPF is by far the loudest trumpetier of the "Raw Milk Movement", championing a campaign website called RealMilk.com. They believe that the beneficial bacteria in the raw milk is very healthy for both maintaining and even healing the gut and immune system, and has been used for thousands of years before a few people in the early 1900's practiced poor handling standards that resulted in several fatal outbreaks, spreading undue panic and fear, allowing Louis Pasteur to create fame on his concept of pasteurization.
My personal take: If scores of generations thrived on raw milk for centuries prior, why in the world did we feel the need to start killing this whole food because of the ridiculous incompetence of a handful of people? And so now I only drink fresh, raw, organic, grass fed milk from local source here in Socal (Organic Pastures). I have never had an adverse reaction of any kind. It tastes perfectly pure, and I find it's best consumed with 3-5 days of opening. If we don't finish it, we just make homemade raw whey from it, and use it for fermenting foods.
I would love for some of you seasoned folk to weigh in on this and contribute any additional info you might like to share.
Here is the thing about raw milk: it is perfectly legal and considered safe by the EU. So 500 odd million EU residents drink raw milk and consume raw milk cheeses and they're having any higher incidence of food borne illnesses in the EU nations than in the US to the best of my knowledge.
This leaves us with 2, not mutually exclusive, hypotheses: either the US government is hysterical or there is something very different about dairy farming in the US.
Well we pretty much know US government agencies are prone to hysterics and theatrics and power grabbing. And we also know for all their supposed hypersensitivity about food safety, we have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cases of foodborne illnesses in the US every year. The vast majority of these do not come from raw milk. They come from, oh, raw veggies, raw fruit, and, of course, poorly handled meats. Oh yeah, and peanut butter. Raw milk is like any other raw food--it is prone to spoilage and/or contamination by microbes. On a well run farm, with a well run distribution chain, the risk of disease ought to be minimal (like we see in the EU). On a poorly run farm with a poor distribution chain, E. coli happens (and Mycobacterium, and Listeria, etc, etc).
I don't find it implausible that the conditions of many dairies in the US are not at all conducive to producing good, clean milk--pasteurized or not. But that means the USDA et al. are focused on the wrong thing. It isn't the rawness of the milk that is the issue, but the condition of the farms.
Of course, the real issues are that government raw milk hysteria is part of their greater hysteria about saturated fats, their hysteria over small, independent farms, and their fear that individuals might make decisions for themselves and thus not need a government bureaucrat to tell them how to live. And the EU loves bureaucrats and they're not even this bad. I mean think about how irrational the governments position is regarding raw milk--they're perfectly content to let industrial dairies produce milk filled with growth hormones and anti-biotics and let that enter into the foodchain, but if there is an outbreak of a bacterial infection involving a few dozen people from raw milk, OMG!
The government should stick to things that it is good at like spending our tax dollars killing strangers in foreign countries for no discernable reason. I mean if we're going to fight to "protect our freedom" then that freedom ought to include the freedom to suckle from the teat of a cow if I so choose.
I am not well informed enough to have an opinion on this, and have been trying to find out about it myself. So thanks Jack for posting this (from a fellow San Diegan).
I did want to reply, however, because I went to the realmilk.com site and it quickly became clear that it's very biased. On their overview page they say:
USDA/FDA STATISTICS: Based on data in a 2003 USDA/FDA report: Compared to raw milk there are 515 times more illnesses from L-mono due to deli meats and 29 times more illness from L-mono due to pasteurized milk. On a PER-SERVING BASIS, deli meats were TEN times more likely than raw milk to cause illness (Intrepretive Summary – Listeria Monocytogenes Risk Assessment, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Sept. 2003, page 17).
I thought it was weird that they compared raw milk to deli meats on a per-serving basis, but only compared it to pasteurized milk on an overall basis. So I checked the source document and sure enough, it looks like on a per-serving basis, there were 7 times more illness incidents with raw milk than pasteurized milk.
Please don't take this as a criticism of raw milk... as I said, I really don't have an opinion on it. And I understand the issue of farm hygiene and that an overall higher incidence of disease from raw milk doesn't invalidate the idea of drinking raw milk from good farms.
However, the cherry-picked data on realmilk.com unfortunately makes it clear that the site is not a good resource for people who are trying to find an even-handed analysis of the raw-vs-pasteurized issue.
The good news is that the site contains the text of a 2004 letter from the CEO of Organic Pastures -- the dairy that you order from -- stating the following:
I have been requested to share with you our commercial organic raw milk production and sales experience. For the last four years, Organic Pastures Dairy has produced a full line of raw organic dairy products for retail sale ( 300 stores including Wholefoods) and consumption here in California. The state of California (CDFA) monitors and tests all of our raw dairy products multiple times per month. The state has never found one pathogen (salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 or listeria) in any of our products. Even more interesting is the fact that not one human pathogen has ever been found in the hundreds of environmental swabs that have been taken in our plant facility.
Since this is pretty easily verifiable I am giving the benefit of the doubt that it's not fabricated. A sufficiently motivated person could probably verify it.
I must admit that when people say, "I've drunk it for a year with no problems," I think that it doesn't necessarily prove anything about the safety of raw milk -- they could just have gotten lucky! But if the entire dairy shipping to 300 stores went four years without a single incident or even the presence of a human pathogen found anywhere onsite... that is a lot more convincing.
So I am a total paleo noob but here is what I've learned in nerding out on this topic:
Thanks all for the great website... I have become totally hooked.
One can approach this logically:
How much additional illness is expected from drinking raw versus pasturized milk?
How much additional health benefit is derived from drinking raw versus pasturized milk?
I personally don't have the answers, even if I have my guesses. I think those who do have facts should make this a quantitative discussion. Just taking one side's cons and ignoring the other's won't do. I suspect I know on which side the preponderance of health promotion would go, but it's still just a guess.
All I want is the right to decide for myself whether I will ingest a certain food. Go ahead and police the dairies, bust the ones who aren't being clean up to standard, and give me all the information you want either way but I reserve the right to eat or drink something if I want to eat or drink it. If we could at least get to that point, then we'd have lots and lots of evidence to look over concerning the healthfulness or dangers of raw dairy consumption.
Traditional cultures have been consuming ruminant milk, after boiling it once, for centuries. The boiling destroys listeria, tuberculosis and other pathogens and is better than the pasteurization process which does a lots of things to the constituents of raw milk.
In any case, personal health should be left in the hand of the individual - the only thing expected of Governments is information, not regulation. I should know that pathogens 'may' be present in milk - it is up to me to boil it and use it or have it tested for pathogens and consume it raw.
It is the heavy handedness, whether it is milk regulations or the food pyramid that is the root of the problem.
The best article on raw milk I've seen so far! http://chriskresser.com/raw-milk-reality-is-raw-milk-dangerous
The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights by David E. Gumpert and Joel F. Salatin
The Untold Story of Milk, Revised and Updated: The History, Politics and Science of Nature's Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows by Dr. Ron Schmid, ND
The Raw Truth About Milk by Dr. William Campbell Douglass II, MD
I used to be terrified of raw milk until November 2011 when I started to drink it regularly.
Background: My mother was unable to nurse me due to severe medical issues, and cow's milk was hard to digest, so my first food was goat's milk. I drank pasteurized cow dairy later (sadly mostly low fat) products from an early age until age 26 and suffered gas. From age 11-26, I had acne which showed no improvement on various creams and antibiotics (now know the worst choice). Doctors said it "couldn't be dietary!"
At age 26,I self-diagnosed myself with lactose intolerance and switched to almond milk and using Lactaid (lactase enzyme supplement) for the occasional dairy. My acne disappeared and friends and family noticed. I never had issues with butter so ate it my entire life because all fake butters and margarines disgusted me.
I started low-carb reducing grains at age 31, then Paleo at age 32. My eczema went away on Paleo. 1 month after dairy elimination while supporting my husband on Paleo (he was going through a very rough time with gluten and autoimmune issues), we both reintroduced dairy - this time 100% whole pastured grass-fed but pasteurized. We had no issues with any amount of heavy cream, butter, and ghee. Other dairy products such as sour cream, cheese and yogurt no more then 1 serving a day would be fine but any more amounts of these products caused slight acne.
After the Weston Price Foundation conference meeting nearly 1000+ people consuming raw dairy their entire life extolling it's virtues, reading the literature, and visiting the raw dairy farms we decided n=1000 was too big to ignore. We realized raw milk was more natural then almond milk.
We have been consuming raw pastured whole fat grass-fed butter, heavy cream, milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, egg nog, creme fraiche (NOT all in 1 day) with NO symptoms - in fact we feel better then ever! We slowly increased the quantity to about 4 servings a day - we've never eaten that much dairy, and I don't think we would consume more because it's too filling and satiating.
Unlike in the past, as a child when I ate processed ice cream and felt addicted (perhaps opiate receptors, sugar, and gluten), the raw dairy I don't feel addicted to it. Whether I have 1-3 servings a day, I don't want anymore. When we travel and limit dairy (because it's pasteurized) we miss 2 things the most - raw dairy and fermented veggies!
We learned a lot WAPF, and Natasha Campbell-McBride whose GAPS diet is quite similar to Paleo recommending reintroducing raw dairy in small amounts once the gut was sealed and healed. We have come to believe the more probiotic species the better for the immune system and the best way to collect a wide variety is through raw dairy since fermented vegetables don't have that diversity. Even here on PH, kefir is acknowledge to have the most species! http://paleohacks.com/questions/73151/which-has-a-greater-number-of-species-and-quantity-of-probiotics-fermented-vegg#axzz1m8YbEQOt
Since raw dairy helps with allergies, which is an overreaction of the immune system - perhaps it might help with autoimmune issues too?
It is my understanding almost all the milk, dairy studies were done with pasteurized forms (often lowfat which is oxidized), so to use that data to say dairy is problematic maybe as scientific as saying coconut oil is problematic because they used hydrogenated versions in some studies.
I know raw dairy is a pain to find depending on where you live so that is why many have just written it off - but is that throwing out the baby with the bathwater? According to 23andme DNA results I'm supposed to be lactose intolerant and my husband is lactose tolerant but we are doing great on raw dairy. I have a physician aunt who cannot tolerate pasteurized dairy except for butter and ghee, but is fine with raw milk.
Another controversy is insulin and cancer with dairy. The Maasai are drinking LITERS per day and don't have insulin resistance and cancer (which are alleged for dairy) and what about babies who drink milk- are they insulin resistant? Now I know some have said that babies are growing and milk is appropriate for them but that doesn't change the fact that some ancestral populations have consumed fermented dairy products - milk, yogurt, etc.
Of course milk is not Paleolithic, but then neither are nightshades and possibly not even coconut. Yet there are intolerances and allergies to all of the above. Not everyone has a tropical genetic ancestry, those from cold climates or from an inland route would not have had access to coconut. http://paleohacks.com/questions/1405/why-are-coconuts-considered-paleo#axzz1m8YbEQOt
My point is that the story of raw milk is not over, and there are still a lot of aspects we don't understand.
The answer to your question can be found in the book The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, ND. Basically, the War of 1812 gave rise to what were known as "swill dairies" in the cities, as distilleries sought to get rid of "swill"...the spent grain from distilling. The malnourished cows gave poor-quality milk, resulting in malnourished people. Malnourished humans became suspetable to tuberculosis and tuberculosis-infected dairy workers infected the milk, causing rampant disease. At first, pasteurization was actually a good thing and did help prevent the spread of tuberculosis since city people had no access to country, grass-fed milk. But then the larger dairies caught on to the fact that if they paid the lawmakers to mandate the pasterization of ALL milk, whether from swill dairies or not, that they could put their competition out of business. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So as far as I know - raw milk can be dangerous for pregnant women because of the presence of listeria. Listeria is a bacteria that can cross the placental barrier which can cause miscarriage, preterm delivery, infection to the baby, and possibly death to the newborn. Listeria sickness (listeriosis) in people is very rare; however pregnant women are more susceptable.
While I was pregnant I stayed away from unpasturized milk products - I mean the chance of getting sick is remote - but with the list of things that can happen if you are one of the rare cases to get sick was enough for me to steer clear for 10 months. But now I will eat raw milk products and definitely give them to my son (and I did while I was breastfeeding also). Although I don't consume much dairy, my son does!
Raw Milk, cheese, butter or none at all. Our government is ridiculous. Why they allow us to poison ourselves with crap (toxins, foods, etc), but target something natural is beyond me. WAPF had an interesting post today:
Raw milk can be very healing to many people and others don't tolerate any dairy, but why someone would want to drink a processed milk is beyong my comprehension. Might as well just eat a bowl of sugar!
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