Raw milk is all the rage. The U.S. has various state laws concerning the sales and consumption of raw milk, with a federal ban on interstate raw milk sales. But recently, according to USA Today, two bills have been introduced, one that would end the federal interstate ban on raw milk and another that would “allow interstate transport between states where raw milk is currently legal.”
According to the Centers for Disease and Control, milk needs to be pasteurized in order to kill harmful bacteria that can be found in raw milk. On the other hand, A Campaign for Real Milk says, “Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system.”
The site lists ways to keep raw milk healthy — including using healthy cows free of disease and infections and who are fed foods that cows natural eat. It also suggests that raw milk has many health benefits over pasteurized milk.
To the newbie trying to figure out what milk is best or whether to drink milk at all it can be confusing. I recall walking around at my local farmer’s market many months ago when I came across a vendor selling raw milk. It was labeled as for sale for pet consumption only.
The back-and-forth over milk–pasteurized or not–is enough to say to hell with it all. Government and dairy industry press on us the importance of drinking your milk for calcium and vitamin D. Everyone recalls the annoying “Got Milk” campaign, right? Diet creators attempt to persuade us that milk is either bad or good for us. But on the other side, rumors abound that there being pus in milk (so far I haven’t found much to say it’s true either way) and that it’s better to drink organic milk versus regular milk. I’m also told you get the same nutrients found in milk from other foods.
During my trip to the farmer’s market, I settled for almond milk.
The CDC and Federal Drug Administration, with undoubtedly good intentions, attempt to protect us from the “poor” choice of raw milk, but I don’t trust an entity filled with people I’ve never met to make my decisions for me. Instead, I can make better, more informed decisions for myself when I know where my food comes from — even more so when I talk to the people who bring their goods to market (or when I go to their farm).
The CDC reported 121 related incidents to dairy products between 1993 and 2006: “Among these, 73 (60 percent) involved non-pasteurized products and resulted in 1,571 cases, 202 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths. A total of 55 (75 percent) outbreaks occurred in 21 states that permitted sale of nonpasteurized products.”
I liken it to sex in a way. The risks of sex include sexual diseases and pregnancy. You take precautions to make sure you don’t get either — you wear protection, are on birth control and get to know your partner to ensure he or she doesn’t have a disease. You can say yes or no to sleeping with that person. With food, a person can find out information concerning the food they want to try, they can talk to people who have eaten or drunk the product and they can probably talk directly to the person who supplies the food — including asking questions about their process. They come to a conclusion about whether or not to buy the product.
If both parties agree to the risk involved — the farmer is accountable for what they sell to their customer and the customer agrees to buy the product — then what happens is between the farmer and their customer. Just like a parent is held accountable for harm brought to their child because of a risk they took. But ultimately, it’s the parent’s responsibility, not the government’s job, to ensure the healthiness of their child.
A few months ago I wrote about four ways to take responsibility for your diet. Perhaps the CDC and FDA can have a look at it. I have no issues with organizations supplying information about the dangers of this and the dangers of that. But banning raw milk doesn’t get at the core of the issue — and that’s to make sure people can make informed choices.
Like sex, you don’t want your teen to get pregnant or get a disease. The best way to do that isn’t to say: “Don’t have sex!” It’s to teach them what sex is and the potential consequences of choosing to engage in sex.
Banning raw milk sales won’t stop people from making raw milk sales or drinking it as I figured out later. Because even though the raw milk I saw at the market was labeled “for pet consumption only” (which is the only way you can buy it in my state) — it most certainly wasn’t.