Memo to raw-milk advocates: Improve information, or get sued

Fifty veterinarians and others concerned with food safety gathered at a raw milk symposium last Sunday in Seattle. Sponsored by the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), “The Raw Milk Conundrum” featured speakers from nearly every regulatory agency in this country,  food safety academics, and food-related injury attorney William Marler. In an unusual move, the panel also included two raw-milk advocates: David Gumpert, author of The Complete Patient blog and the forthcoming book “The Raw Milk Revolution,” and me. I was there to present a survey that described the views of people who choose to drink unpasteurized milk; for more about it, see  this post on my blog. Basically, I argued that consumers should have access to raw milk but that they should also be accurately informed of its risks.

The role and responsibility of raw-milk information for consumers turned out to be a running theme at the symposium.

realmilkWAPF warning shot

Two days before  the meeting, Marler dropped a bombshell on the raw milk community with a PowerPoint slideshow on his site implying that he was considering suing the Weston A. Price Foundation, the most active raw milk consumer advocacy group in this country, on behalf of his clients injured by unpasteurized milk.

Marler has sued several parties for raw milk injuries to date, including the raw milk producer and two health food stores implicated in the 2006 E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in California that was tied to raw milk. He is arguing that the WAPF may also be liable for injury under enterprise liability law, in which trade associations have been successfully sued for providing safety information they knew to be incorrect. Marler pointed to a case of a child injured by diving off the diving board into a swimming pool. Twenty years before the injury, the National Pool and Spa Institute (NSPI) — an organization that had taken it upon itself to provide members with safety information — had conducted a study that suggested the diving board in question was unsafe but failed to inform manufacturers and consumers.

A key element of that case, in which the NSPI and diving board manufacturer shared liability, was that the NSPI had volunteered itself as the expert on pool safety; consumers and retailers heeded its advice. The comparison to the WAPF is fairly strong: there is no other group more prominent in promoting raw milk, and much of the promotion is based on its claims of raw milk safety. If those claims are incorrect, and if WAPF knows that the information is incorrect, it could be liable for consumer injury.

“If you are a leader in the movement and your misinformation causes a child to lose his kidneys, you are in my crosshairs,” said Marler.

The good bacteria vs. bad bacteria myth

One possible area of misinformation brought up by a number of symposium speakers (including me) was the idea that the beneficial properties of raw milk can kill pathogens. Raw milk does contain enzymes that are known to compete with pathogens, but the key question for consumers is whether this process of “competitive exclusion,” as microbiologists call it, ensures raw milk safety.

Survival of E. coli 0157:H7 in raw milk is an informational website about unpasteurized milk created and maintained by WAPF; it also has links to raw milk producers. On it, a dairyman describes a private lab test he funded in which he had pathogens introduced into his own milk and colostrum. Referring to the counts of E. coli 0157:H7, he says the E. coli “did not grow and declined substantially over time.” The lab report, which is available on the Internet, tells a different story. In the graph to the right, I present the data for E. coli 0157:H7 in the two milk and colostrum samples. Microbiologists would transform the bacteria counts and express them on a log scale, but for our purposes we can see that the number of pathogenic cells declines by Day 4 of the test and then largely recovers by Day 7.  As it may take fewer than 50 cells of this bacteria to make a person sick, complete reduction of the pathogen is necessary to ensure safety of the final product. We certainly see no evidence in this study of complete destruction of the disease-causing organism.

In a review of the research on competitive exclusion, symposium speaker Michele Jay Russell, D.V.M., showed that there is no clear evidence that raw milk is self-protective against pathogens. She presented some preliminary evidence in a U.C. Davis study on competitive exclusion in raw milk produced for human consumption. Researchers purchased fresh raw milk at the grocery store and inoculated it with Salmonella to examine the change in numbers over time. At refrigerated temperatures, the Salmonella did not tend to grow, but they also did not die off. In the milk stored at room temperature, the Salmonella grew from hundreds of cells to hundreds of thousands of cells in just two days.

The evidence that raw milk can kill pathogens is at best far more complex than is suggested in the WAPF literature about raw milk safety.

Another example of problematic content on the WAPF sites is an article “Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?” that lists contaminated milk outbreaks in California from 1982 to 1996. According to the WAPF article, no sicknesses from raw milk occurred in that time, yet multiple outbreaks were linked to pasteurized milk and other foods. Many Californians however may remember that there were a series of outbreaks linked to raw milk in that timeframe, for example this one, cited in a published article on outbreaks in the early 1980s. I checked the outbreak data provided by the CDC, which lists outbreaks by year. I selected 1995 randomly, scrolled down to a “raw milk” outbreak, and discovered it was in California. So, there have been raw milk outbreaks in California, and they have been fairly widely covered. While some might quibble with the evidence linking these incidents to raw milk, it does consumers no service to pretend there never was an outbreak in the first place. I contacted the president of the WAPF about 18 months ago with this concern. She responded that the outbreak table in question was developed by another raw-milk advocate — Aajonus Vonderplanitz — not WAPF; she did not seem concerned with its content.

Advocacy groups make claims all the time that are not based in solid research. For example, groups opposed to genetically modified organisms in food production make many health-related claims that industry disputes. One claim is that the genetically engineered growth hormone used in dairy cows, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), is linked to breast cancer in humans; another claim is that genetically modified corn causes fertility problems. Like many claims that advocates make every day, the health effects of genetically modified foods are not well documented — partly because, as we have written here and many others have elsewhere, there is an absence of much long-term, independent research.

rawmilk2But while it’s the lack of solid research on the long-term impact on human health and the environment that keeps GM foods off most Ethicureans’ menu, raw milk claims play a different role, because the recommendations are to drink it, not avoid it. We may choose a life of rBST-free milk and never suffer physical injury as a result, but we can’t ignore that even raw milk produced with great care has the potential to harm us. Raw milk can harbor disease-causing pathogens. If  you are a raw-milk consumer and that fact surprises you, you may just end up as a witness in a Marler-Clark lawsuit.

Drowning in a teacup?

At last week’s symposium, speaker David Gumpert argued that so few outbreaks are linked to raw milk that regulators are making more out of the issue than it merits. “I kind of agree with that guy,” said William Keene of Oregon Public Health Services, later adding “We have won the war.” He described that the vast majority of consumers are not even aware of raw milk. He questioned the resources put into regulating raw milk, implying that there were more productive avenues for funding.

In the final minutes of the 10-hour-long symposium, Keene’s no-nonsense “Why are we making such a big fuss of all of this?” attitude appeared to win the day. Others had countered that food safety professionals have an obligation to keep the public informed, especially as more people seek unprocessed food, including raw milk.

A slender blonde woman then waved her arm and said, “I am ready to speak now.” I had a good idea about what she was about to say, since I had met her the evening before. Mary McGonigle-Martin is the mother of Chris Martin, a child who spent two months in a California hospital after the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to a raw dairy in California. As she began to speak, I turned away and stared at my lap so that I would not cry in the middle of the Seattle Convention Center.

“I believed the claims,” she said. “I believed that the milk was tested regularly. I didn’t know that there was no approved on-farm test for E. coli. I thought if you tested the milk for it, it would guarantee its safety. I didn’t know that you really can never test all of the milk. I believed what I read on the Internet and felt safe in feeding raw milk to my son. He drank it for two weeks before he ended up in the hospital fighting for his life. I don’t want any other mother to go through this.

When Martin was finished and I felt composed, I turned and caught sight of a California food safety expert still staring at his lap. What I did learn about the food safety crowd this week is that they have a great deal of compassion for consumers. Their job is to keep the public safe from high-risk foods. When they hear stories like Martin’s, it is likely difficult for them to think about ignoring regulation of raw milk.

Later in my Seattle stay, I met up with a friend who, like me, grew up in California’s dairy country. When I mentioned the symposium, he said: “Raw milk is great. I used to get it straight from a friend’s small dairy. You just have to know that every five or six years, you are going to puke your guts out. Besides that — it’s great.”

I responded: “If you were in charge of raw milk consumer information, I doubt there would have been a symposium this week.”

Read more:

Photo of raw milk from local farm by Ethicurean editor Bonnie Powell

99 Responsesto “Memo to raw-milk advocates: Improve information, or get sued”

  1. Amanda Rose says:

    Speaking of the awesome Fresno Farmers Market, has that fig festival happened yet? I went three years ago and loved it. I was probably on the verge of a diabetic coma, but hey, that’s the price of ripe figs.

  2. michele reynolds / KMK Farms says:

    You  just missed it! The fig fest was last weekend. They moved it to Fresno State last year because it was getting so big there was not enough parking. Vatche from the Cracked Pepper Bistro held the dinner at his restaurant in the Mission Village Shopping Center in Fresno, but everything else took place at Fresno State. Sorry you missed it!

  3. Joanne says:

    I for one would greatly appreciate having as much accurate information available as possible.
    I’m part of a team working on creating a software/legal resource for people who want to herdshare farm animals. We realize that herdsharing helps people gain access to produce by sharing ownership and thus the right to consume fresh from the farm as well as sharing the responsibilities that farmers usually shoulder alone. This includes the responsibility to produce safe food. However, if farmers and herdshareholder don’t have access to adequate information, how can they do so?
    There are two other issue I find intriguing:
    1. Since children aren’t legally able to be party to herdshare contracts, their parents are, in effect, taking full responsibility for feeding them raw milk products from their herd. There is absolutely no litigious pathway for them if their child does suffer illness from the produce. And perhaps government child advocacy departments have grounds to charge these parents..
    2. A point no one has discussed so far. How can we explain only a few people getting ill from a herd? Is there a difference in their immune response? Why are some people more succeptible? Is their succeptibility related to their diet/lifestyle before consuming the milk? If so, how much responsibility can they take for their own illness? Could they have taken more responsibility by educating themselves on how to build a strong and vital colony of beneficial gut flora etc? And my next question, obviously, is, “How much responsibility does WAPF (and take for such education?”

  4. Jo Douglas says:

    Please remember that milk is no longer milk!  It is heavily processed, many more times that it was 40 or so years ago and large numbers of people are lactose intolerant because of it.  The evidence for this is the increasing  numbers of lactose intolerance showing up in all our communities.  At the very least we need to be saying that this should stop and return to non homogeonised organic pasture fed milk.  At best, lets return to raw milk so we can include the beneficial bacteria’s and enyzymes from the milk in our diet as our modern diets are so badly lacking in beneficial bacteria.  As well as using it  to make fermented products with all their additional goodness such as Kefir milk.
    Pasturisation is a modern intervention and a stop gap measure to address poor quality milk from poorly raised animals.  Raw milk (and ideally certified high quality organic biodynamic pasture based) has been around for thousands of years and should not be stopped because of poor animal husbandry, cheap and easy processing and dairy boards that are now v big industries.  Many many many people have experienced increased health and the ceasation of milk related allergies by switching to raw milk – as yes I have seen a ton of testimonals as well as my own experience and those I know first hand.  The health benefits are phenomal and I believe conversations about raw milk should not be about whether to make it availble or not but instead, should be around certifying the farming, handling and transportation processes to ensure the milk stays in its best condition possible.

  5. Amanda Rose says:


    Those are really great questions. There really does need to be more explicit examination of the relationship between the share owner and the animal manager. Producers think they are covered and then they get sued. I think that’s tragic. There are some truly tragic cases out there of the hell some small producers have gone through in an outbreak. Obviously, the people sickened went through hell too, but it is easy as a consumer to forget the toll on producers.

    Perhaps Bill Marler will offer advice, but based on his presentation, it’s clear that if the herd share itself is an illegal entity, that the agreement not to hold the farmer liable would not apply. In illegal cases then, the farmer could be sued. There are a lot of shades of gray out there for herd shares, at least in the U.S.. I don’t know where those would fall. The other thing he said is that parents cannot sign away the rights of a child and so even if the herd share is legal, there may be a window for farmers to be sued when a child is sick. I don’t know if there can be language limiting who is to consume it under the agreement. That is, there might be the possibility that a farmer could cover himself or herself further by engaging in a boarding agreement only with adults who are consuming their milk. This could perhaps be a conservative path.

    Good question #2. I doubt that there is a clear answer which is precisely what muddies all of the waters. Clearly, even with a massive outbreak like a million pounds of beef, there aren’t *that many* illnesses.

    In terms of the responsibility of herdshare educating, the legal reference in this article is about an organization that puts itself out there as a go-to organization on the safety of a particular product. If isn’t making safety claims, then its own liability is limited (and probably limited to next-to-nothing). I should add I am a political scientist by training, not a lawyer, so take that with a grain of salt. But read the link on that case and then look at some of the materials online related to it. I think you’ll see what I mean.

    Take care, Joanne!

  6. Amanda Rose says:

    Michele — My waistline says “thank goodness.” My heart says, “Oh no!”

  7. Amanda Rose says:

    I got so caught up in herdshares and figs, I forgot to post a link. In response to this discussion about competitive exclusion, I offer a paper on the topic for a small fee. It includes some great data visualizations:

  8. Amanda Rose says:

    WAPF President Sally Fallon has commented on this post on an unrelated post at David Gumpert’s blog The Complete Patient. Scroll down in the comments to read it. I have responded to her there.

  9. Ruffin says:

    Sorry to come to the party late — If I use raw milk when baking bread, it’s my understanding that I’m going to bake the risk out of it.  Is that accurate?

  10. Re: Marl McAfee:

    Your website says:
    “OPDC has demonstrated that even when high levels of pathogens were introduced into raw milk, they die off and do not grow

    Apparently you are not very good at reading, as the post indicates above, research has shown that pathogens do grow in the raw milk. Indeed, what other conclusion can you reach when the pathogen levels increased from day 4 to day 7? I wonder what the pathogen levels would have been at day 10? Also, as a private study that you funded, it bears little weight next to the independent peer reviewed literature on the topic. Try this recent one on for size:

    Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment for Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus Enterotoxin A in Raw Milk

    A quantitative microbial risk assessment was constructed to determine consumer risk from Staphylococcus aureus and staphylococcal enterotoxin in raw milk. A Monte Carlo simulation model was developed to assess the risk from raw milk consumption using data on levels of S. aureus in milk collected by the University of California-Davis Dairy Food Safety Laboratory from 2,336 California dairies from 2005 to 2008 and using U.S. milk consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2003 and 2004. Four modules were constructed to simulate pathogen growth and staphylococcal enterotoxin A production scenarios to quantify consumer risk levels under various time and temperature storage conditions. The three growth modules predicted that S. aureus levels could surpass the 105 CFU/ml level of concern at the 99.9th or 99.99th percentile of servings and therefore may represent a potential consumer risk. Results obtained from the staphylococcal enterotoxin A production module predicted that exposure at the 99.99th percentile could represent a dose capable of eliciting staphylococcal enterotoxin intoxication in all consumer age groups. This study illustrates the utility of quantitative microbial risk assessments for identifying potential food safety issues.

    “I challenge anyone to try and come to OPDC and take raw milk from my hand when I am taking a drink. After I call the media and the police I will create a very uncomfortable feeling inside of you that you never ever forget. You will become headline news…guaranteed.”

    This is a very strange thing for you to say. No one has suggested that raw milk be taken from your hands, being the person who owns the cows and is in every way responsible for your own health. You have an interesting raw milk showdown fantasy, but the veiled threat is very telling.

    Anyone notice a similarity between Mark McAfee and Charlton Heston? “From my cold, dead hands”

  11. AmyG says:

    Do the pathogens die off approaching day 4 (obviously not entirely, but some)?

    What was the selection criteria for Heidinger’s study? Did she lump together data from all dairies—large, small, organic, nonorganic?

    What were the various time and temperature conditions that could surpass levels of concern? Are those time and temperature conditions likely?

    Four modules were constructed; three were used for results. What was the fourth one about?

    Why is their level of concern of CFU at 105/g or mL when I find it is 1,000,000 to 100,000,000 CFU/g or mL as sufficient levels for poisoning in similar studies? See 
    Johnson, E. A., J. H. Nelson, and M. Johnson. 1990. Microbiological safety of cheese made from heat-treated milk. Part II. Microbiology. J. Food Prot. 53:519-540.

    The part of the article quoted is an abstract. The full article is not available without payment. It is impossible to accept the content of an abstract without being able to critically examine the research for biases of selection, methodology, statistical analysis, etc., and to ensure that the study findings support the conclusion. In academic research, such considerations are critical. 

  12. AmyG says:

    One methodological bias I’d like to check in Heidinger’s work referenced by the abstract: did they also measure beneficial bacteria counts that would mitigate against an infection caused by S. aureus in vivo?

    As for McAfee’s private research, is there anyone else who wants to fund it besides him? I’m sure he’d be happy to let someone else foot the bill. What matters most is if the research was sound.

  13. AmyG says:

    Dear Innoculated Mind,

    You stated that research shows that pathogens grow in raw milk. Firstly, the research you give to support that does not apply to OPDC’s milk; the research did not exclusively use OPDC’s milk, which is different that the milk studied. You cannot make generalizations about raw milk and then expect them to apply to every individual raw milk on the market. This is a question of internal validity versus external validity in this type of research.

    Secondly, the testing done on OPDC’s milk involved pathogens introduced into the milk for the purpose of study, for a “what if” scenario. The OPDC milk does not have these pathogens in it to begin with.

    Thirdly, to answer your question, what would happen on day 10 to OPDC milk? The answer is in the report: salmonella continued to decline, E. coli and lysteria were competing with each other (the 3 would not likely be present together in a real milk sample—this was an innoculation remember). Actually, the answer to that question is irrelevant, because the tests were conducted for shelf life and not beyond. Any food that is beyond fresh will be overcome with pathogenic influences and is not fit for human consumption, raw dairy or otherwise.

    Do not confuse me for a raw milk enthusiast. I question things like you do. I would like to see what would happen if each pathogen were independently introduced to the milk. I would also like to see what would happen if the milk was not kept at refrigerated temperatures for various periods of time. That information would be useful from each raw dairy farmer I am interested in, but would have to be repeated each time the herd changed its diet, etc.

  14. Amanda Rose says:

    Dear Amy,

    OPDC cows do have pathogens, just like all other cows, maybe fewer, maybe the same (I have no idea on the relative volume). O157:H7 was found in non-milking heifers during the 2006 investigation and an outbreak strain of campy was found in milk cows in the late 2007 campy outbreak. The cream was recalled for campy in 2008. These are real-life cows on a real-life dairy. Expecting a zero pathogen situation is not realistic.

    On the fresh milk issue — “Any food that is beyond fresh will be overcome with pathogenic influences” — it really depends on the pathogen. Campy probably wouldn’t survive that long but it may depend on the strain.

    The BSK study and a study being conducted now by a researcher at UC Davis does use OPDC milk. Most studies do focus on one pathogen at a time (in fact all that I am aware of besides the BSK study). There are also studies that examine the effect of temperature on pathogen survival. I reference these sorts of studies and provide visual displays so that you can see the change in pathogen counts in the paper available here for a small fee:


  15. AmyG says:

    I intended to put off unfair attacks against OPDC by Innoculated Mind, not portray OPDC as perfect. I would never expect zero pathogens. I never believed OPDC or any milk could ever be totally free of pathogens, nor do I aspire to such a standard. I worked in a microbiology lab. 

    I am very familiar with the findings following the 2006 investigation presented by the prosecutor, and I am sympathetic to the conclusions drawn by the doctors, as well as the parents, but I am not against raw milk per se, and I am most sympathetic to farmers like McAfee whom I equate with health care workers. If a doctor uses best practices in western medicine, there will still be things we cannot control for and lives risked or lost, but we do not eliminate western medicine because of that.  I would never want to eliminate raw milk practices either. Sometimes western medicine is not the best choice for a patient’s health; likewise for raw milk. It’s not black and white. We have to think.  

    To me it’s about which pathogens are present and in what quantities, and finding best practices to reduce risk, and then examining risk/reward ratios for each individual in each context of their lives. . . and then accepting the fact that we cannot control for everything, and so the way to solve problems when they occur is not to point fingers or single out individual farmers but better understand the system, what can and what cannot be done.

    Amanda, thank you for the work you did on your paper.

  16. Rachel says:

    This is interesting.  However, why do you not discuss/ mention the diseases/ infections, etc caused by processed milk & dairy products?  I do not believe that more people become sick from raw milk products than from processed milk products.  It may be a traditional practice to boil raw milk prior to consuming, but the way that milk is processed, pasteurized, homogenized, etc these days is much more involved than boiling, and turns it into a virtual non food substance w/ little nutritional value.  Again, I would like to see comparisons between sicknesses caused by raw milk vs processed milk.  Raw milk is not the evil here… there are risks with everything we do, and everything we choose to put in our bodies. 

  17. Sandy says:

    I think the lactose-intolerance argument ought to be separated from the raw-vs-pasteurized milk argument – aren’t we seeing increased lactose intolerance among adults because milk used to be a kids’ drink, and more adults are drinking milk now? Cow’s milk is designed (or formulated, if you prefer) to feed young cows, not humans. 
    Disclaimer:  I haven’t liked to drink milk for years, altho I still enjoy yogurt and some cheese.  So all I can say in the current argument is, if organic/natural foods are to continue to be available, their growers and proponents MUST be open and truthful and conduct the most honest scientific research possible, avoiding at all costs the sort of misinformation of which we accuse Big Agra.

  18. Amanda Rose says:


    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Raw milk isn’t an evil.

    As for comparing risk of consumption of raw and pasteurized milk, pasteurized milk has sickened more people but more people drink it, so the rate of consumption needs to be considered. Last I looked, there were something like 10 times more illnesses reported from pasteurized milk. If 10% of the public consumed raw milk, then the illness rates would be about equal. What we don’t know is how many people consume raw milk. I’ve seen estimated from 0.5%  to 5%.

    There is actually some interesting data coming out from the CDC that describes not just what the outbreak numbers are but what pathogen is linked in the outbreak. If memory serves (from the Seattle symposium), norovirus was the biggest issue for pasteurized milk and was basically not an issue with raw milk.


  19. Amanda Rose says:

    Just over a month ago, I offered a “raw milk white paper” for sale on raw milk’s ability to kill pathogens. It is here:

    In the fall 2009 issue of the WAPF journal, Ted Beals has written a response. A link to his response is displayed on the website along with a response to the FDA and Bill Marler on their respective raw milk materials. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be grouped with anti-raw milk people. I got heckled by anti-raw milk types when I presented at the symposium. Apparently the world is pretty black-and-white for a lot of people.

    You can find Beals’ response to my paper here:

    In the next week or so I will post a response on the Rebuild blog. In the meantime, you might want to check out what Beals has written.


  20. No Food for Thought says:

    I felt compelled to respond to the seatbelt analogy.  The difference there is a legal one.  Operating a motor vehicle is a privilege granted by the State, NOT a right protected by the US Constitution.  And before somebody attempts to relate purchasing raw milk to a privilege, I would like to approach the understanding from a different angle.

    Let me start by saying that I have never, to my knowledge, consumed raw milk. So I assure you I am not speaking from some misplaced passion or controlling motivation of tradition or taste. In fact, since I was very young I have been known to go through an entire gallon of pasteurized milk in a single week by myself. Also, I enjoy skim, whole and everything in between (though I have mostly had skim). That being said, I have been researching for quite some time, and fully intend to try raw milk and would have already if it were more convenient to do so. Yet still, I approached my research with no bias and if there was a possibility for any subconscious bias, it would have been in favor of pasteurized milk considering it has always been my favorite food.

    I do not contend that raw milk is all-safe, because frankly, what is? I also don’t feel any need to assert raw milk has health benefits that pasteurized milk does not, or that pasteurized milk is more harmful in less obvious ways than raw milk. The point is not that there can only be one milk in this country, and everyone has to fight for their personal preference. Rather, the point is that our constitution makes clear that we as citizens of the US have certain rights and that the Federal and State Governments have limits to their control. Now, in an attempt to figure out what you think those rights include and where you think that limit lies, I offer the following hypothetical scenarios.

    1) Our country obviously has a problem with obesity and other health issues related to diet, so in the interest of the safety of the American people, regulation passed requiring a specific meal plan or diet be followed by all citizens.

    -Alright, I figure most people would say the government doesn’t have the right. And if you wouldn’t, make sure you’re thinking in terms of what the founding fathers intended rather than your personal views. If you eat meat think of the required meals including no meat, if you don’t eat meat, think of it requiring you to eat meat everyday. Are we all on the same page now? It’s insane! So how do you personally distinguish this from regulating the milk people get? And you have to answer it in a legal sense. Is there a right that this violates that wouldn’t apply to raw milk? The state interest is the same for both, isn’t it? Well I think one could argue that there’s a bit of a distinction between banning things that are making people sick and requiring a person to eat certain things. I will concede to that point and alleviate that issue with the next hypo, but before I do, consider if all foods perceived to be unhealthy were banned only leaving available 3 individual food items. Still seems like too much, right? The next hypo will not be extreme in that sense either.

    2) I’m no expert—does anyone purport refined sugar to be healthy? It’s obviously been accused of the opposite, contributing to obesity, diabetes, overall malnutrition etc. So let’s say the government food agency doesn’t have any evidence that Splenda (sucralose) is bad, and it’s “derived from table sugar through a patented, multi-step process”. So everyone is still getting their sweetener, just an altered “healthy” version of it that doesn’t make people sick like refined sugar does. As a result, regulation is passed by States banning refined sugar in some, and making it different degrees of difficult to obtain in others.

    -Now we’re banning a food rather than requiring people eat certain things, and we’re only talking about one individual food. Even if you don’t eat sugar yourself because you believe it to be extremely unhealthy, do you really think it should be banned? I mean, people eat stuff that isn’t good for them all the time, why single out refined sugar? If you’re okay with this, ask yourself if you eat anything unhealthy, because by your reasoning, the government can ban any of those things. You don’t? Hm, by whose standards? Different people have different views of what’s healthy, and our Federal Agencies that give guidelines have changed their recommendations drastically throughout the years. Just think about the different stances on red meat or eggs. But really I think most people can agree that extending this regulation would limit freedom. Even though many of us try to stay away from certain foods, sometimes completely eliminating, we still appreciate the freedom to choose for ourselves.

    -So distinguish this one from milk. Sugar’s not as bad for you as milk? The effects are not e-coli contamination but just general lack of health. Okay, then we’ll look at another hypo. But, before we do I want to address a couple of other issues. First, e-coli infections are potentially contagious between humans only through contact with feces and vomit of a person who is infected. Oh, and that contact has to lead to ingestion; I just used “contact” because you can get it on your hands and then bring your hands to your mouth. Now, if you’re making the argument that drinking raw milk is putting other people in harm’s way, you’re basically saying that you’re concerned about coming in contact with their vomit and/or feces. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are a LOAD of illnesses you can contract in this manner including but not even near limited to Meningitis, Worms, Giardiasis, Hepatitis A, Thrush, AIDs(HIV) etc. etc. etc. So, please, avoid vomit and feces. I know, I know, if someone doesn’t wash their hands or it can be in public restrooms etc. etc. Well, if that’s the argument, then you’re arguing that raw milk legislation is constitutional because IF people get sick they HAVE POTENTIAL of being contagious. By that reasoning, it would also be legal to prevent people with any of those illnesses from using public restrooms. That can’t be right…

    -Second, some people have been advocating regulation on raw milk for the children, saying that they shouldn’t be subjected to their parents’ “bad decisions” that lead to them being ill. Now the flaw in this argument is a common flaw in the understanding of the “risk” of raw milk. I only put risk in quotations because when one reads it in a sentence with raw milk it has a bit of a different connotation than when read in a sentence regarding buying raw chicken to cook for dinner. With the chicken it’s a risk we’re aware of and we deal with appropriately. The misconception is that many people seem to think raw milk is inherently dangerous rather than a risk of these dangers. Just as with raw milk, the danger requires improperly handling the raw food through inappropriate exposure or cooling methods and other “handling” mistakes–same darn thing for chicken. If you speak of banning milk because “bad” parents can’t be trusted to take the right precautions handling their children’s food, then we should ban the sale of raw chicken as well. I mean, assuming you get the chicken and milk and put them in the fridge, which are you more likely to mishandle? The milk which you take out of the refrigerator just to pour a glass and the put back, or the chicken which you take out, cut somewhere and prepare? I think about one of my roommates from college that would cook raw chicken then wipe up the surfaces she remembered it touching with a paper towel. I would have to come in and do a real cleaning as well as take care of the dish she had the raw chicken sitting in that was now just sitting in the sink, raw juices still inside. As much as I’d like to think she was one of a kind, I’ve since learned that there are many people with similar practices, even those with kids. But with raw chicken there’s a warning of the risk including suggestion for safe-handling and cooking, and that’s sufficient. I say do the same for raw milk. (also require farms to meet certain regulations—I don’t want raw milk from ill-nourished cows)

    Oh yeah, and those of you who don’t want your kids going over to someone’s house and having them drink raw milk, just inform them of what they need to ask. Be involved in your kid’s life and if they’re young enough to where they might not understand the issue, then talk to the parents! As someone else mentioned, if your kid was allergic to peanut butter you would talk to anyone who was taking care of him/her until they were at an age where they were old enough to avoid it themselves. Anyway, third hypo.

    3) This month alone (September 2009, it’s the early morning hours of the 20th) the FDA posted 5 food recalls as a result of potential health risk due to contamination with either Salmonella or Listeria. ( As a result, let’s pretend State governments decide to apply the same regulation they have for raw milk. Say goodbye to spinach, parsley, chocolate-covered peanuts, tahini and Eggo Waffles. (Just be glad we didn’t include August otherwise we’d be out of red pepper, lemon meringue pie, iceless green onions, cantaloupe, a whole bunch of cheese products, several Adams Extract & Spice products, romaine lettuce, AND macaroni and cheese! I’d love to list all of them for the last 6 months, but you get the point and they’re available for you to search at the link I provided.)

    -Weren’t we going to distinguish the milk regulations based on the specific health issues? Well, everything I listed was recalled for Salmonella or Listeria. So? What’s the difference? None of those products are banned, none of those companies are required to stop selling the product for good. So what is the legal distinction between this situation and that of the raw milk? Honestly, I can’t find a legal distinction. I can’t find a difference in rights. I really can’t figure out why people are so adamant about excluding raw milk and only raw milk, and find it so easy to ignore the broad application of their reasoning. Actually that last sentence isn’t completely true: we are taught to rely on the FDA, CDC etc. and if we can’t do that, how are we supposed to know what is good for us and what isn’t? It’s a lot easier to trust an obviously biased or flawed authority than it is to accept that there is no authority on which we can rely. But easier isn’t always better, right?

    Back to the whole equal application thing, who hasn’t gotten food poisoning? People still go to McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell… and those are just the major examples where you don’t expect much if any care to be put in your food, so you’d think some of the disgusting awful stories you’ve read about from those places would have shut some of them down by now. I guess they’re on the other end of the whole money influence thing though, go figure. Now, the small farmer getting regulated to the point of failure to the big industry’s benefit is slightly suspect, but not enough to convince me until I have exhausted all other lines of reasoning. Are we exhausted yet? We’ll get there.

    People who are against raw milk have to understand that those who support it are speaking from experience which to them seems ABSOLUTELY more truthful and accurate than any potentially influenced agency or any potentially flawed study. Wouldn’t you trust your own experience above what ANYONE said? Especially when it came to your health… I’ve been on medications before and had my doctor tell me it was not causing the symptoms I was experiencing. Lo and behold, within a week of going off the medication (and that was the only change) my symptoms disappeared and never returned. No one will ever convince me that the medication was not the cause, not matter how many studies show it and how many intelligent people tell me otherwise. So of course raw milk advocates will be passionate and sure of their convictions without needing studies or numbers to back them up.

    However, those against raw milk, why so passionate? Have you consumed it and gotten sick? I Googled “I got sick from raw milk” and went through 5 pages of links without finding one single person commenting that claim they personally experienced something bad from drinking raw milk. I then Googled “raw milk made me sick” with the same result. Links came up where articles talked about people getting sick and the like, but not ONE SINGLE personal comment to that effect. I don’t care how much I loved raw milk, if it made me sick I’d turn on it in the blink of an eye. That goes for anything. Doesn’t it seem like if raw milk is as bad as it would have to be to make the regulations just, that ANYONE who experienced the reasons for the regulation would turn on raw milk? If it were you or your child, wouldn’t you be getting on every single one of these forums to make your case against raw milk? I’m not saying that means there aren’t any people, just that you’d think there would be more. (Try Googling “I got sick from peanut butter”). So somebody please explain how raw milk can be so clearly awful and yet those who are passionately speaking in opposition to raw milk don’t have any real reason to be?
    Given the lack of legal distinction, the inconsistency in application of regulation, the lack of personal testimonials for bad health effects, the abundance of testimonials supporting great health benefits, and the reliance on the FDA/CDC etc by those speaking against raw milk, I find it much more likely that raw milk is getting unjustly singled out as a result of large industry influence rather than that raw milk is uniquely worse than the other food items that have been known to be contaminated with the same bacteria and the supporters who drink it regularly are reckless and ignorant in regards to their health.

    Sorry I wrote so much, I was more interested in expressing a line of reasoning than merely stating an opinion.

  21. Amanda Rose says:

    No Food for Thought,

    Thank you for the detailed discussion. Raw milk advocates claim that raw milk is “uniquely safe” and argue that the government singles it out (as you are arguing) and treat it as “uniquely dangerous.” I don’t see it as either.

    For now I would like to say that I would love to see at one of these raw milk symposiums, an expert on rights from political science or philosophy provide some sort of framework for understanding this issue. I totally agree that the seat belt and helmet comparisons are not on-target examples.

    The whole rights and liberties issue gets complicated too — “liberties” are freedoms we have the require the government keeping its hands off in order to ensure them. Speech is generally seen as one. “Rights” the government usually needs to protect — right to enter a space when you are in a minority group and the majority wants to keep you out. I have a “right” as a breastfeeding mother in California to feed my child in public anywhere I am otherwise allowed access. CA has a law to protect that right and to keep me from getting harassed.

    Most of us raw milk drinkers see access to raw milk as a liberty (govt should stay away to guarantee it). What then allows the government to regulate it? I would really like to see an expert examine this question.


  22. Tom Galloway says:

    By Zeus’ beard where am I? I was looking for a food site and fell into a den of modern liberal frothing rant.
    NO Food For Thought and Amanda are so confused about the Constitution, rights & privileges
    It boggles my mind. (Traveling is a right.)  
    Eric, at least, came close to what matters with his item 1. To comment on item 2 there are some places now that you cannot get your steak rare or even medium rare. Then he fell into the government must protect me mindset, with item 3, along with the rest of you.
    I am certain you all consider yourselves to be educated and enlightened. But you know nothing of freedom and personal responsibility.
    The government is not your friend! Follow the money. Big business pays the lobbyist to bribe the congress-critter to squeeze out the little guys. This is how DuPont got hemp outlawed when they found a way to make paper using wood pulp. The THC was a distraction from the real issue.
    I do not drink liquid cow’s milk as I am not a calf.  If you say “it’s for the children” I will rip your eye balls out and serve them as sushi.
    When I saw the thread for this conversation I was thinking about something else. I had a very brief moment of expectation that the federal government had lifted the ban on imported cheese made from raw milk. As an epicurean that is a right that should not be thought by anyone as a privilege!

  23. Amanda Rose says:


    From your usage, I am guessing you do not ascribe to the classic political science distinction between “rights” and “liberties”? LOL. If you did, I am guessing that you would not say traveling and cheese-eating are rights but rather liberties.

    Anyway, I like Tom and think these discussions would be far more interesting if we had more libertarians serving us our eyeballs like sushi.

    Question for Tom: If government were to get its hands off raw milk, what then would be the role and responsibility of advocates in terms of educating consumers? Personal responsibility is important, but if you turn to an opinion leader who you deem credible and that opinion leader tells you that raw milk kills pathogens within 24 hours and you believe it and end up with a bad batch and sick, is it just your tough luck? Do people who place themselves as opinion leaders have any responsibility in your framework? Is there a consequence for them? Eyes as sushi?

    I’m going to go feed my 9-mo-old some milk now — I make it myself. :)


  24. Re: AmyG
    “The part of the article quoted is an abstract. The full article is not available without payment. It is impossible to accept the content of an abstract without being able to critically examine the research for biases of selection, methodology, statistical analysis, etc., and to ensure that the study findings support the conclusion. In academic research, such considerations are critical. ”
    Feel free to email me at karl (AT) inoculatedmind [DOT] com and I will send you the PDF of the entire article.

    “You stated that research shows that pathogens grow in raw milk. Firstly, the research you give to support that does not apply to OPDC’s milk; the research did not exclusively use OPDC’s milk, which is different that the milk studied. You cannot make generalizations about raw milk and then expect them to apply to every individual raw milk on the market.”
    In this statement, you have denied that any conclusions can be made about any raw milk out there if it did not have a pile of research studying that specific source of raw milk. You have just denied the possibility of applying any of the research, good or bad, to OPDC, including potential future research that could someday tell us that raw milk is the best thing in the world to drink. This is a two-edged sword, denying the applicability of existing research, especially when some of it has been conducted on OPDC milk.
    “Secondly, the testing done on OPDC’s milk involved pathogens introduced into the milk for the purpose of study, for a “what if” scenario. The OPDC milk does not have these pathogens in it to begin with.”
    Tell that to the people who found campylobacter in some of OPDC’s milk bottles, happy as can be living in the milk fat. One of the central claims of the raw milk advocates is that the milk has special properties that prevent pathogens from living in it. That does not appear to be the case.
    “I intended to put off unfair attacks against OPDC by Innoculated Mind, not portray OPDC as perfect.”
    My attacks were not unfair. They were harsh and direct – and as you’ll notice Mark McAfee disappeared after being challenged. He seems to like making grandiose claims of fact about nutrition and microbiology, yet can’t seem to grasp the issues involved or back up his claims. What is particularly scary is that McAfee seems to deny that pathogens get in the milk, yet simultaneously agrees that pathogens get in the milk and that this is good – that it acts as a vaccine against future infections. Couple that with a blame-the-victim mentality that any infections that occur are due to the ‘weak immune systems’ of those victims. I would probably trust someone like McAfee to raise cows, but not to make judgements about the health of human beings.
    Point of fact – OPDC’s website states that no pathogens were ever found in the milk. But we know that campylobacter was found in their products. The slight-of-hand is that the campylobacter was found in the milkfat floating on the surface of the milk, but not the milk. It’s still in the bottle, and would be all over the place is you shook it up (as you’re supposed to), but OPDC misleads by making this distinction but not pointing out the distinction they are making.

    You suggest that 10 days is past the shelf life of milk… that seems like an extraordinarily short shelf-life. And I’m glad that you agree that milk that does not stay cold is suspect – that was my point in bringing up OPDC’s memo stating that they could not guarantee that their shipped milk arrives unsoured. What happens with e. coli gets in there, or there’s a repeat of campylobacter?

    And there’s one N in ‘inoculated,’ by the way.

  25. No Food for Thought says:

    Oh boy Tom, you crack me up–I bet you write entertaining articles/blogs.  I did not really intend for my post to reflect on my understanding of the Constitution so much as I wanted to give perspective on the issue of drawing the line for government intrusion.  My intention was to reach the people who argue based on unwarranted fears, so I was speaking in layman’s terms more than legal exactitudes.  You are correct Amanda that milk would fall under civil liberties, which are also “rights” except when you are making the legal distinction between civil rights and civil liberties.  Most people are not aware of the distinction, so I didn’t bother.  Oh, and Tom, you are correct that the government can’t prohibit people from traveling public roads, but they can regulate it–the courts continue to uphold the States’ rights to require license plates, drivers license etc.  So, like I said, operating a motor vehicle is a privilege.  I do appreciate wisdom whenever I can find it, no matter the source, so Tom if you truly feel I am “so confused about the Constitution, rights & privileges” please enlighten me.

    Mary, I appreciate the stories–really, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding some.  Although I must say a personal injury lawyer’s blog is not the most reliable source since his very job is to make a group of people believe the story of those he represents.  We’ll ignore that part of it for now.

    Once I actually opened the first article I was a little disappointed… those two stories are the only stories with actual names and faces associated with them that I’ve been able to find.  And even those stories have some holes.  For example, the Lauren Herzog situation is very interesting:
    -Lauren’s father’s girlfriend (her parents are divorced) put 1/3 cup of raw milk in a smoothie that was shared by Lauren, the girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s 3 year old and 5 year old.  Yet Lauren was the only one to get sick and the container was tested and no E. coli was found.
    -Also mentioned was that she had a hamburger with her mother.  How can we be so quick and sure of ourselves to accuse the milk when no one else that shared the same 1/3 cup of it (not to mention drank the rest of the bottle) got sick and there was no E. coli in the bottle?  Why are we so quick to rule out the possibility that a hamburger was undercooked, or that someone preparing the hamburger contaminated the lettuce or bun or something without realizing it?   (the info comes from the comments below the article)

    Also, just look at the Marler Clark homepage:  ”Since 1993, Marler Clark has represented thousands of clients in litigation against restaurants and food companies whose food was identified as the source of illness.”  Thousands, and yet you provided me with 3 due to raw milk.  So, what about the others?  What other food is banned?  I mean surely some food has better representation than just 3 of thousands.  If someone is arguing because they think raw milk is truly a health concern, I hope they’re making the same fight to get rid of spinach, cookie dough and BBQ (just to name a few I glimpsed while on Marler Clark’s website).

    As I said before though, I don’t contend that milk is all-safe.  Any milk.  Food poisoning is awful, but scarier than the possibility for food poisoning on occasion (which will always exist) is a country that begins to outlaw every source of food poisoning it finds.  Those who want access to raw milk are not asking that all milk be raw, so it still surprises me that so many people are vocally against it without personal experience or really any personal interest to back it up.

  26. No Food for Thought says:

    oh yeah, this is a good article w/comments as well:

  27. Amanda Rose says:

    For anyone who wants to rehash the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak here in California,  read the state report on the case (it’s hosted on the Marler Blog, but it’s a CA document):

    Here is the dairy’s argument:

    Here is the Marler-Clark argument:

    I want to highlight this notion of “My whole family had the milk and only one of us got sick, so it couldn’t have been the milk.” Not everyone who is exposed gets sick which is what makes all of these outbreak investigations complicated.

    I should also point out to those who argue that the outbreak strain was never found in the milk cows — not all cows involved were tested. The dairy was buying product from Horizon (produced at the time by the Vander Eyk Dairy). The Vander Eyk cows were never tested. You can’t really hang your hat on the claim that the strain was never found when the state didn’t know which animals to test. (When the state people wrote their report, they did not know about the outsourcing, so you will not find it there.)


  28. Amanda Rose says:

    One of my concerns in the original post is that raw milk advocacy groups misrepresent the scientific literature on competitive exclusion. In response, I wrote a “white paper” on the topic. Ted Beals of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) wrote a review of the white paper in the fall 2009 issue of the WAPF’s journal. His review is here (PDF):

    I have posted a response to his review on the Rebuild blog:

    Does raw milk kill pathogens quickly enough and thoroughly enough to provide a consumer safety guarantee? What is the evidence? You will find diverse interpretations in those links.


  29. Twwly says:

    I’m all about informed consent.  I don’t see why the gov needs to criminalize something like raw milk when cigarettes and coca-cola are legal.  Stick some information on the product about it’s risks (should people DECIDE not to inform themselves on their own) and let people make their own decisions!  I am sorry to hear you were heckled for providing a totally rational opinion.

    My family drinks raw milk daily.  I am more concerned about drinking chlorinated “town water” than I am about the risks of drinking raw milk.  We cool it immediately, drink it quickly and have never had a problem with our own milk.  We like it because of the taste, because we feel when handled properly it is better for us, and it makes better cheese in my opinion.  (I make my own cheeses). 

    Like your friend I have once “puked my guts out” when I knowingly drank raw milk from an Amish neighbour over lunch that I knew had been sitting out too long.  I knew it was questionable when I picked up the glass and sure enough I barfed later.  I didn’t give any of it to my kids and I will “go with my gut” in future and politely decline if it’s summer and well, the Amish don’t have a fridge!  Anyway.  I have no science background here, but I FEEL that we are more used to any potential “bad” bacteria in raw milk than my town friends who drink chlorinated water and eat irradiated food.  And so I never, ever serve them raw milk in my house.  While I am confident enough that my families tummies can handle it, and confident it got cold enough quick enough, I don’t want to make anyone ill.  I am not a large dairy with a contraption to quickly chill milk, I am a mother with some goats and a kitchen sink with ice cubes.  Haha.

    LOVE what you guys do here, btw.

  30. kc says:

    I live in a state where it is illegal to buy raw milk from a local farm but I can go in any grocery store and buy diet drinks laced with neurotoxins. I could even feed them to my kids if I was so foolish as to wish to do so. The FDA decided that there is an “allowable amount” of lead in dinnerware, no warning label required for anti-freeze in ice cream, and leftover soy sludge in candy bars is just fine with them. According to the FDA, as a consumer I don’t even merit the courtesy of knowing if my food is genetically modified.

    As for some of the posts here, I am always suspicious when someone argues so vehemently that a natural product should not be allowed to even compete with Big Agra’s version. None of the raw milk drinkers are vehemently arguing to make raw the only milk available under the law. It strikes me as exceedingly strange that a self-professed liberal humanist is arguing for total government control on any issue. As long as aspartame, caffeine, hydrolized soy protein, monosodium glutamate, hydrogenated vegetable oil, sucralose, propylene glycol and magnesium stearate are acceptable food ingredients according to the FDA, there is no logical arguement against the sale of raw milk. The only reason that raw milk is not legal is because the big money is behind the competition. Pasteurized dairy products should be one of the milk options, not the only game in town. With a little competition, maybe the commercial dairy industry would be motivated to improve their product so even pasteurized dairy consumers would benefit.

  31. Susan says:

    I guess I should be dead then… I know and understand the guidelines that are put forth in raw milk safety handbook, but I also certainly know that I was raised on raw milk and it was always ran through a separator. What I learned later was that… lol well, that separator was never really taken apart to be scrubbed down and sterilized, ever. Since it was the “self-washing” type my parents had no desire to “risk damaging the special gasket in there” since it was nearly impossible to replace. Even a “self-washing” unit needs to be taken apart regularly. So years upon years of use and no serious washing.  I also learned that from time to time is was a goodly while before that milk made it through the separator (say 3+ hours after milking was finished.) Why do I relate this story? Mostly because I don’t ever recall getting sick from our milk nor any of my siblings (of which there are 14). Our cows received supplemental grain and were dry lotted over night before morning milking otherwise they free-ranged. Do I produce my milk the way my parents did? Nope. Maybe this isn’t beneficial to the discussion of this article as it is antecdotal rather than scientific… I just found it to be an extremely interesting story I learned rather recently myself.  Do I believe that there is a possibility of getting sick from raw milk? Sure, there is that possiblity.
    However, I get very weary about being told what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t eat and that because people have died from things historically that we should ban it or alter it or some other absurd thing.  Someone way up the line made a nice analogy to seat belts for example; I actually know a gentleman who CAN’T wear a seatbelt because if he did get in an accident it would kill him based on how the shoulder strap laid across him. Damned if you do.. Damned if you don’t. How about that for having to make a decision on your own life? He was even stopped by an officer for it and he explained and the officer AGREED and told him what he needed to do to be legal with the whole affair without ticketing him. So why is it that people want to make it illegal for other people to make their own informed decisions in life? Rather, let’s just sue. If you’re going to sue, please make certain you’re not just trying to capitalize on it. I’ve ran into far to many groups of late that just want to capitalize on the organic/local/sustainable movement rather than actually believing in the cause be it one side or the other. The only term that comes to mind is “amubulance chaser.”
    I appreciate knowing both sides and certainly appreciate your article Amanda Rose. I also have life experience… sometimes that outweighs scientific data for the occassional crazy lady like me.

  32. Amanda Rose says:


    Thank you for your comment. If you are crazy, so are we all. Probably a good number of Ethicureans drink raw milk. I expect all would ardently agree that we should have the right to choose. My concern is over the content of consumer information. People like you and I who produce our own food tend to be plenty well informed.


  33. Amanda Rose says:

    I just noticed today that Sally Fallon added a comment to the “Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?” article that I reference in the original article. She made a similar comment on The Complete Patient some time back, so it’s not new information if you’ve been reading all these months.

    Her article is here:

    In my article above I link to a journal article I found on PubMed. My point? It’s awfully easy to find a California outbreak in the 80s and 90s and yet, the WAPF article suggests none ever happened. Fallon reviews the article I cited and argues that the particular outbreak cluster never happened. In the process she uses the “correlation does not prove causation” argument without addressing the actual statistical analysis of the research article. Outside of a laboratory, you don’t do a whole lot better than “correlation.” You can add statistical controls and other analytical methods to test your hypothesis, but you will never escape Fallon’s criticism. As a result, there is no outbreak I can point to in which she could not make the same argument. Again, my only point was to suggest how easy it was to find an outbreak report for California in the 80s and 90s.

    It would sure be nice if WAPF could hire some researchers to help with their analyses. Beals fell short in his response to my competitive exclusion paper.

    I like raw milk. It’s too bad we consumers can’t find any reasonable analysis of it.


  34. Michelle says:

    I often loathe these endless blog comment debates but this one has been both fascinating and entertaining. My child is allergic to milk and a parenting consultant recently advised me to try raw milk, citing the alleged benefits with which you all are no doubt intimately familiar. Whenever someone advocates taking an action far outside the mainstream, no matter how expert I believe them to be or how interested I am in being countermajoritarian for its own sake, I generally try to do some independent research. Not to say that mainstream culture is an optimal source for vetting information (particularly with the influence of affluent corporate players and corrupt governmental bodies), but change is scary, and so we turn to Google.

    While many arguments here are interesting, even profound, and sometimes flawed, I am not really seeing much actual data on actual illness. The studies cited are not useful to me – I would rather know what percentage of raw milk drinkers nationwide have become sick or died from consuming infected milk on average per year. I would want to know this data broken down by age. Furthermore, I would like to know the percentage of those deaths caused by improper handling and/or animal care. Finally, I would like a comparison (not an extrapolation) of per capita illnesses/deaths from raw milk consumption and pasteurized milk consumption. In addition to statistical information, I would like to know how far from a raw milk dairy one can safely live and what preventative practices (if any) the end-consumer can put into place to protect themselves and their children. Is there any way to tell from a sip that there are deadly pathogens in the milk? My guess would be there is not, so is there any other way to test the product at home? Or is there some consensus that city dwellers cannot safely feed raw milk to their children (without making it into another product like cheese or yogurt)?

    Raw milk advocates should understand that anyone making the switch, regardless of how much research she puts into it, will be crucified by her mother if her little girl gets sick.

  35. Amanda Rose says:


    Thanks for the questions. This is really a problem with the raw milk decision — answers are not available for most/all of your questions. We don’t know how many people actually drink raw milk. Most illnesses are unreported (for all foods but unreporting may be higher among raw milk consumers).

    As for the “what can a consumer do”? There are no in-home methods to test your milk. In fact there isn’t even an on-farm test for E. coli O157:H7. The test used by farmers was developed for apple juice. Tasting and smelling won’t tell you. The flavor may be “off” for other reasons; the milk may be sweet and contaminated. This uncertainty is why the “know your farmer” mantra has become popular because it’s really all about the sanitation practices at the farm and even then it’s possible for an accident to happen.


  36. Mary says:


    Here’s a few videos you can watch.  Drinking raw milk doesn’t always have a positive outcome.

  37. Mary says:

    Michelle,   An alternative to pasteurized cow’s milk is pasteurized goat’s milk.  My son experienced negative reactions to organic cow’s milk, but does fine on goat’s milk.  Other alternatives are rice, almond or coconut milk.  You don’t have to make the leap to raw milk.   If you are looking to increase the healthy bacteria in your child’s intestinal tract, there are some excellent high probiotic supplements as well as pasteurized goat’s milk kefir and yogurt.     Mary

  38. Michelle says:

    The videos are sad but anecdotal at best (inflammatory at worst), and while I feel bad for anyone or their child who has become ill from any source, I don’t think this addresses my question.  I also found the Marler articles on the subject unconvincing

    My child is allergic to pasteurized dairy products and I have a lot of difficulty putting together a complete day’s worth of nutrition which poses physiological as well as behavioral problems that could be solved with raw milk and raw milk products.  My daughter is not autistic – I am not hoping to resolve a complex disease with a single food item.   But I need to know how big the risk of deadly pathogens is  – 1/100 bottles, 1/1000 bottles, 1/10,000 bottles, etc.  And because raw milk is so demonized, I am having difficulty finding the farms and getting information on them.

    And yes, we have tried all the alternatives – the only one that she will drink is soy milk and she won’t drink much of it, plus all of its calcium and vitamins are artificially added which means they will not be absorbed well by the small intestine.

    Here’s a very pragmatic question – would an adult, with a presumably stronger immune system than a child, be able to have a small sample glass of the week’s raw milk shipment and wait for a few hours to see if illness develops?  Like the king’s taster so to speak.

  39. Michelle says:

    I’ve been doing some additional research and found this in an NYT article from last year:
    “The center released a report in December that looked at 2005 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It said that raw dairy products accounted for 30 percent of dairy-related outbreaks of illnesses in the United States, including 70 percent of outbreaks from milk. It also showed that while food-borne illnesses overall declined in 2005, dairy outbreaks increased.”

    So there are some statistics that look pretty damning.  I’m sure raw milk tastes great and does have health benefits but it’s starting to look to me like the risks are great, particularly for children.  I really hate industrial agriculture and all that, and am a vegetarian and animal advocate.  So I’m definitely not on the side of big dairy. But I’ve had some really terrible bouts with food poisoning (I live in NYC after all) and I don’t think I can stomach :) the risk to my child.  I guess I’ll have to continue struggling on with soy milk until she outgrows her allergy.

  40. Mary says:

    I’m happy you found the data you were looking for.  I’m assuming when you say your child is allergic to pasteurized milk, you are referring the milk protein casein.  There are anecdotal stories of children who are not able to digest casein after it has been pasteurized, but are able to digest it without reactions when the milk is raw. 
    This is the way I see it.  Consuming raw milk is a crapshoot.  If you don’t get a contaminated batch, the health benefits are positive.  The problem is raw milk can harbor multiple pathogens: E.coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and TB.  All of these pathogens have been implicated in raw milk or raw cheese outbreaks over the past ten years.  Since 2005, Ecoli 0157:H7 has been the most prominent pathogen in raw milk outbreaks.  It only takes a few cells of this bacterium to kill a child. 
    There has been much talk about raw milk’s capacity to kill pathogens.  Scientific evidence indicates this is not true.  I would like to see a research study conducted on raw kefir’s ability to kill pathogens.  Are the lactic acid bacteria that powerful?  Would this be a safe alternative to raw milk?
    For what it is worth, the choice to give my son raw milk was biggest mistake of my life.  If you are interested, you can read a detailed account of our son’s journey with E.coli 0157:H7 and HUS here Click on my son’s picture. 
    I have had the opportunity to meet other families who have become ill from raw milk.  A common variable is that everyone who became ill had consumed raw milk for the very first time or had been drinking it for a very short time.  

  41. tslate says:

    It is rather clear from this blog and others that no federal agency has the least interest in ensuring the safety of raw milk for mass production.  And the endless diatribe about you prove to me, no you prove to me, the ad naseum pissing contest gets nowhere either. 
    Although regulations or not, people get sick and die from literally thousands of food products and approved FDA medicines every year, and most come from overly processed and sanitized methods, including the introduction of the endless supply of chemicals in the eco-system.
    So simply do what we always do, slap warning labels on it and move on.  If there was the slightest preponderence of evidence it would have been shut down a long time ago.  So the obvious suspects such as the dairy industry is not such a stretch after-all, otherwise just shut it down.
    It cannot legally be done.  So if the fed is really interested in food safety of raw milk products they would provide enlightened and modern approaches to an old problem.
    That said it is obvious the biggest threat is to weak individuals, children, sick and elderly.   Have a person with a weak immnue system eat a quart of pasteurized ice-cream.  They’ll be sick as a dog and it’s pure as the driven snow, right?
    People have a right to decide what is best for them as long as the risks are clear.  Slap a warning label on it, stop criminalizing individuals and move on.
    I’m sick of listening to the un-informed preach to me about what they simply do not know themselves.   Nor are willing to admit that the testing practices regarding so-called raw milk outbreaks are shadowy at best.  Too much cloak and dagger.  If it was reality, then open it up for all to examine.
    As it is continually asked for peer reviewed “scientific” evidence, well then spend a few of our tax dollars and actually produce some that isn’t backed by dairy industry scientists. Of course that is if you’re really interested in truth.
    The argument about raw milk is not about raw milk, it’s about freedom of choice, freedom to even grow and consume our own food as we see fit, without persecution.    Those that think this is about raw milk are seriously uninformed and delusional.  It is simply about a huge conglomerate that is interested in their bottom-line.  Nope not a conspiracy, simply facts. 
    Anyone who thinks ultra-pasteurized products are healthy deserves what they get, just don’t expect me to consume a “fresh” product that no longer requires refrigeration.   Oh yeah, didn’t know that did you?!   It’s like the diet ice cream that was so popular in the 70′s, sit it on the counter and well watch it stay hard by the time real ice cream melted into a puddle.  Hmmm, which one should I eat, hmmm.
    That’s the problem today, those on the pasteurized side would actually need to figure out which ice cream is actually better for you.

  42. Amanda Rose says:


    I like your idea of having a “taster,” but there have been cases of families who have all consumed a tainted food and not all have gotten sick. Having a taster would surely reduce the risk, but there would still be some risk.

    tslate — I don’t follow the beginning of your argument but, in general, I am absolutely in favor of consumers having as much information as possible about their decision. There is a decent bit of scientific work on the safety of raw milk and as technology improves we may learn more. There is a definite lack of information about the benefits perhaps in part due to a researcher bias in wanting to highlight the risk. However perhaps a bigger barrier to research on benefits is the Human Subjects Review that a study has to pass at the design stage. Basically they want to know that participants agree to participate, know what’s involved, and that there are no/minimal risks in participating. For my dissertation I had to pass human subjects and I can tell you mine design did not touch people in any way and it was still ridiculous. I can’t imagine getting approval for an intervention like raw milk where there is a well known and long documented risk (albeit small) and an unknown benefit. I just don’t think most people on a human subjects committee would have the vision for that sort of study. Short of that, we are left with studies like the survey in Europe that asked people about their behaviors and related them to various health outcomes.

    tslate commented on the “cloak and dagger” nature of “outbreaks.” I wonder if that’s how most consumers feel. Back in the 2006 ecoli outbreak tied to raw milk here in California, it was frustrating at the time because we could get no real information from the state. However, six months later the state released a report with a good bit of detail. The problem was the report wasn’t publicized so I didn’t see it for another year. In the meantime, WAPF was making claims about the outbreak that simply were not true (like that no pathogens were found at the dairy — O157:H7 was found but not a matching strain). I am sure there is a huge variation in how states handle these outbreaks.


  43. Mary says:

    The idea of a “taster” for raw milk seems like a logical idea, however the incubation period for disease (the period from ingestion of the bacteria to the start of symptoms) is usually longer than a day or two.  Salmonella is the only bacteria with a short incubation period.
    Incubation cycle for foodborne pathogens:
    Salmonella—typically 6-72 hours
    Camplyobacter—typically 2-5 days
    Ecoli 0157:H7—typically 3-9 days
    Listeria—typically 1-8 weeks with the average being 31 days

  44. Taylor says:

    I just read this on the CDC’s website:

    Does pasteurization change milk’s nutritional benefits?
    No. Many studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk and dairy products. All of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk are available from pasteurized milk without the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk.
    Completely disregarding the sickness question…isn’t this statement untrue?  Isn’t it true that pasteurization kills a lot of beneficial things in milk, and then adds them back in…which in turn makes them less bio available?  Is this just misinformation from WAP?
    Thanks for any insight!

  45. kc says:

    Actually, milking GMO corn-fed cows confined in concrete floored structures produces milk that is much lower in Vitamins A and D so all milk is fortified with vitamins A and D made in a lab. These vitamins are made using GMO corn and GMO corn is used as the “binder”, too. Therefore, all milk that is not raw (even organic) contains GMO corn. As a corn allergic family that doesn’t live in one of the states that allows raw milk sales, we do without milk, which is what everyone avoiding GMOs must do. By the way, this process applies to all fortified staples sold in America such as enriched wheat, rice and iodized salt. All vitamins are made using GMO corn and have been shown to reach (at their peak) a whopping 9% bioavailability.

    All of this seems beside the point of pasteurized vs. raw milk but the issue is not that easy. As with every single food that this country has industrialized, factory milk is an inferior food. The GMO vitamins are only added to make up for the lack of green grass and sunshine factory dairy cows suffer. Most milk is even ultra-pasteurized these days and there is no way to twist that to sound as if it is for the good of the consumer. It is very good for the financial status of the factory dairies, though, allowing milk to have a MUCH longer shelf-life and even survive unrefrigerated. The one thing that all these delusional anti-raw milk people need to understand to bring all this into perspective: pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, fortification….all these things are not done for the health and safety of the consumer. These practices were implemented so that dairies could have less than ideal conditions and still safely sell the milk. When the product of factory dairies is touted as superior to raw milk from healthy cows raised on sunshine and green grass, it only stresses the ignorance of the speaker. These practices are necessary only because the consumer can no longer visit the dairy and know the farmer, but they are in no way producing better milk.

  46. mike warren says:

    I didn’t read ALL the comments, but doesn’t this mostly boil down to my least-favourite topic: Risk? Seatbelts aren’t really a bad analogy here: if I don’t want to wear them, that should be MY choice; if I don’t want my kids to wear them, also MY choice (or at least the choice of my very-local community, e.g. extended family etc).

    If I take my son scrambling or climbing when he’s older, probably about 85% of you are going to have a shit-fest that I’m “endangering” him. You’re right, of course, on some level but for me the benefits will outweigh the risks and if he wants to join me on some outdoor adventures, that’s awesome.

    Similarly, if I wish to eat bacteria-”infected” horror-shows like saurkraut, kim-chi, wine, beer, sourdough, yoghurt or milk, that’s my choice and you can take your risk-abhorrent bullshit elsewhere. We’ve gone WAY off target on regulations: small producers of all sorts of things get mired in needing to buy liability insurance and follow a retarded list of regulations that could all be better replaced by getting rid of Big anything. The biggest expense for any small group I’ve belonged to is insurance, or the fear of lawsuits. Is this really related to raw milk? I would say so: can’t “consumers” (aka “individuals”) take more ownership and responsibility of their own actions?

    If you get hurt, it’s YOUR fault. We’re too quick to try to blame someone or some group for our own failings. Didn’t know milk had bacteria in it, some of which might sometimes be bad? Boo hoo. Didn’t know living involved the risk of dying? So sorry.