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

Realmilk.com 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. Good article! I would certainly like to see the likes of Bill Marler go after the Weston A. Price Foundation... that would be interesting.

    I would like to draw everyone's attention to this blog post on Aetology, back in 2006 during the Spinach and raw milk E. coli outbreaks, food writer and raw milk advocate Nina Planck wrote about E. coli, pinning it on 'industrial ag'. She stepped into her own manure when she commented that raw milk is both A. Sterile, and B. Has beneficial bacteria that eliminate pathogens. When we pointed out that she was contradicting herself, she disappeared.

    Please keep tabs on the raw milk sites, I would be interested to see if their information changes to shore up their legal liabilities.

    I would also like to make a comment about the clever argument in the post above about the distinction between the raw milk issue and the genetic engineering issue. I suggest that in the case of GE traits that displace pesticides (Bt), the reverse may be true, that avoiding them may be slightly more risky to your health than eating them, since you would be exposed to more pesticide residues (albeit low amounts of pesticides). Heck, in the case of higher levels of fungal mycotoxins in organic grains (because they are more bitten, which allows the fungi to take hold), in some cases 'eat organic' would be more risky. Our foods are beset with dangers, and as in the raw milk issue, the assumption that 'natural' is better or safer often goes contra-evidence.

  2. Melissa says:

    I would like to see more information on how other countries treat raw milk. When I was in Switzerland I bought it at a special store and they told me there is a strict certification system.

    Back in the old days maybe raw milk was fine for tots, but these days we need to think about how poisoned our food system is...and the tentacles of that poisoned food system very much extend to natural and sustainable growing methods because pathogenic e coli is now a part of the ecology. They've found it in everything from seagulls to deer.

    Unlike Inoculated Mind, I'm still going to blame this on industrial ag, but we are going to have to accept that some things just aren't safe anymore despite being produced with love and care.

  3. "Basically, I argued that consumers should have access to raw milk but that they should also be accurately informed of its risks."

    Yes. In all things let this be true. Government should allow informed choices.

  4. Re: Melissa,

    I didn't say that industrial ag doesn't have a part in it. I was pointing out that Nina Planck was placing the blame for the spinach outbreak squarely on industrial factory farms, without evidence. Interestingly enough, the spinach farm in question was on the second year of a 3-year transition to Organic, which is often missed in the discussion.

    If a certain feeding regimen is encouraging the persistance of O157:H7, for example, that presents a problem that needs to be fixed. But E. coli O157:H7's pedigree goes back long before 'industrial ag' came along - it wasn't invented on factory farms.

    It is not true that things were safe before but weren't safe now - food poisoning cases continue to go down over the years. For a more historical outlook, you could check out Death in the Pot. What has certainly changed is the public perception of food safety. There was no idyllic past where food was safe and it is now dangerous.

    Speaking of love and care, the Fresno raw milk company that was implicated in one 2006 E. coli outbreak told its customers that it could no longer guarrantee that its milk arrives un-soured. They used to reimburse or replace in that case, but coudl no longer afford to do so. Although the argument that these products should be available for people to choose if they so desire, the counter-argument is that we cannot sit and watch such poisonings take place without doing something about it.

    The best analogy is seat belts. If you take the "informed choice" without restrictions argument to its full extend, there should be no seat belt laws. Although it is paternalistic, they undeniably save lives.

  5. Gayle says:

    “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 drank "raw" milk growing up and never puked my guts out from it. However, it was straight from the cooler on our dairy farm to our fridge. My family was responsible for then entire, albeit short, supply chain and no contamination took place. However, as the supply chain increases considerably when it goes off-farm, I really hesitate to recommend unpasteurized milk sales. The people I have spoken to do not understand the dangers of infection and tend to believe that consumers' rights are being circumvented rather than pausing to consider other alternatives.

    In my family, too, milk was boiled prior to given to infants for drinking. In Holland, my Oma milked her own goat, but would boil the milk, too, as a precaution. Pasteurization is not new and is not a corporate-bigwig imposition.

  6. Farmboy says:

    This is a very important thread and I'm glad that it is generating multiple responses.  I am a member of Weston Price Foundation and have no doubt that the dietary guidance which it has brought to light is essential for the healing of our planet, beginning with our own degraded human health.  Please take time to review the organization's website and, if you interested, search out a local chapter.  These issues are too significant and complex to reduce to blogging.  I have to reject the analogy between safety belts and milk as one that reflects a one size fits all attitude about food.  With safety belts, we know they work and we have a pretty standardized design system for making them work well.  Wear it and stay seated, don't wear it and be projected.  The seat belt is a tool.  Food is not a tool, unless you care to think of the body as a machine, which I don't.  Food is the foundation of our physical, emotional and spiritual well being and there is an extremely high degree of variation in how it affects us.  Think of re-constituted dry powered milk which is loaded with horribly oxidized cholesterol, then think of properly handled whole, raw milk from a beautiful grazing Jersey.  Is there a greater difference here than in the last two seat belts that you used?  Despite the Hudson Institute's insistence that "Milk is Milk", it is most definitely not.  And Nina Planck has not "disappeared" to my knowledge - check out her website for updates.
    The good news about the impending collapse of the industrial agricultural model (the model that believes that human beings are machines) is that we have all the wisdom we need to resurrect a food system that will nourish us and support a healthy environment.  The best news is that the food that will do so tastes delicious!  Check out Weston Price, check out everything you deem credible, then think for yourself.

  7. jennywenny says:

    It is incredibly refreshing to see an article like this that calmly puts both views forward.  Thanks for being so well balanced about it all.  I have no interest in raw milk, I agree that maybe people should be able to get it directly from the farm, as long as they fully understand the risks involved.

  8. Re: Farmboy:
    "I have to reject the analogy between safety belts and milk as one that reflects a one size fits all attitude about food."

    Reality has only one size. I don't accept relativism when it comes to statements of fact. And the facts about the record of raw milk in terms of food safety are what I'm talking about.

    As for emotional and spiritual well-being, I think you've just put forward the actual motivations of the Weston Price food philosophy. Personally, I derive plenty of emotional satisfaction from pasteurized milk products, especially (and emphatically) in the form of cheese, but I can understand that some people want to have their milk taste the way it does straight out of the cow. The question is, does such an emotion trump the emotion we feel for people who are harmed by such practices?

    As for the spiritual part, I somehow doubt that anyone's spiritual well being is dependent upon keeping their milk from being temporarily heated. And in a world that is still rife with uncertainties, do we need more food religions?

    The dichotomy between the uber-industrial pasturized milk system and the raw milk 'final solution' is a false one. Why not have small, regional dairies that pasturize their milk? I grew up with one practically in my back yard, Clover Stornetta in Petaluma, CA. It is dishonest to suggest that the only alternative to the megamilkopolis is microEcolipse.

    You misunderstand me, I didn't mean that Nina Planck disappeared off the face of the Earth - I think she has much more confidence than that. But what she did do was disappear from the blog discussion and not answer any more questions. A case of keyboard-in-mouth if I ever saw one!

    "These issues are too significant and complex to reduce to blogging."

    Try me. :) Blogging is a tool, and the only thing that dictates the level of discourse are its participants.

  9. Excellent post, Amanda, and thanks for keeping us informed about what's going on in the world of Raw Milk. I wrote an article years ago for Salon, where I tried to give equal weight to both sides of the argument.  (see here if you missed it: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/01/19/raw_milk/)
    Ultimately, it is heartbreaking to hear any mother (or father) talk about a child getting deathly ill from any food or drink, but especially one that's supposed to be healthy.  There is nothing wrong, in my mind, with getting the WAPF and other consumer advocates to be more careful about backing up their assertions—as a raw milk drinker myself, I welcome more accurate information. (And generally speaking, I think the WAPF does better than most consumer advocate sites in presenting a lot of good solid science. I do agree, though, esp. given the detailed info from Amanda above that the evidence that raw milk internally kills pathogens is slim.)  On the other hand, doesn't raw milk sold in California grocery stores have a big fat label on it saying "Raw Milk May Contain Deadly Pathogens"?   (Or somesuch. It's been a year or so since I was in the Bay Area.) This seems the perfect way to handle "the raw milk conundrum": warn consumers on the label—and then they know they're taking a risk when they buy it.  
    By the way, is anyone else wondering why the AVMA sponsored the raw milk symposium in Seattle?

  10. Michele Jay-Russell says:

    Hannah,

    As one of the conference organizers (and a DVM), I am responding to your question about why AVMA sponsored the raw milk symposium this year in Seattle.    Veterinarians have a long history of working in food safety.  For example, large animal practitioners care for the health of the animals that produce dairy products and eventually enter the food supply.   Additionally, some veterinarians go on to become board certified in "veterinary preventive medicine," a speciality that includes expertise in fooborne pathogens and food safety (see:  http://www.acvpm.org).  Many of the pathogens --Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Brucella, bovine tuberculosis--that cause foodborne diseases are "zoonotic" (infectious diseases transmitted between animals and humans).  Raw milk is one of the potential vehicles of transmission of these pathogens to humans.  For more information, see this link to AVMA's policy on food safety:  http://www.avma.org/issues/policy/food_safety.asp

  11. Last I checked, raw milk is illegal to sell in CA stores for human consumption, but I may be mistaken.

  12. Oh wait, I'm sorry, I remember what I was thinking of. Raw milk from California was being shipped to other states as "not for human consumption" to get around the bans in those states. It is legal to sell in CA still.
    Had I waited 10 seconds before hitting 'submit'...

  13. Michele Jay-Russell says:

    Amanda, very well written article.

    Hannah,  as one of the conference organizers (and a DVM), I am responding to your question about why AVMA sponsored the raw milk symposium this year in Seattle.    Veterinarians have a long history of working in food safety.  For example, large animal practitioners care for the health of the animals that eventually enter the food supply and produce dairy products.   Additionally, some veterinarians go on to become board certified in "veterinary preventive medicine," a speciality that includes expertise in fooborne pathogens and food safety (see:  http://www.acvpm.org).  Many of the pathogens --Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Brucella, bovine tuberculosis--that cause foodborne diseases are "zoonotic" (infectious diseases transmitted between animals and humans).  Raw milk is one of the potential vehicles of transmission of these pathogens to humans.  For more information, see this link to AVMA's policy on food safety:  http://www.avma.org/issues/policy/food_safety.asp

  14. Farmboy says:

    Raw milk isn’t the “final solution”; it’s more like the first solution, the one that human societies around the globe were founded upon thousands of years ago.  Raw milk and its lacto-fermented by-products are the foundation of healthy diets on every continent.
     
    A scientist such as yourself should realize that you are not stating facts about raw milk; you are selecting anecdotal and often incorrectly reported incidents that support your presumptions.  If we followed your facts and logic, we would stop using seat belts if even one person wearing one was injured or killed in a crash.  Again, human beings have thrived on raw milk for thousands of years and there is no reason why we cannot continue to do so.  Risk free?  No, walking down the stairs involves risk. And yes, there are staircase personal injury lawyers – I hope nobody ever needs one. But the health benefits of raw milk, the ecological benefits of good grazing, and the economic benefits of family farms far outweighs that risk to me when I conduct due diligence on the source.   
     
    Why should my desire to drink raw milk trump the way that you feel for people who are hurt by the practice?  I’m sorry, you’ll have to take responsibility for your emotions all by yourself.  Should we outlaw hunting because a hunter is accidentally injured or killed on occasion?
     
    I wouldn’t say that a person’s spiritual well being depends exclusively on what they eat, but it is distorted thinking to believe that the two can be separated completely.
     
    I did not suggest that there is only one alternative to megamilkopolis.  I am saying that I want the legal right to purchase my preferred alternative, which is raw milk from pasture raised ruminants.  You can have all the pasteurized milk you like – though I’m glad to share any raw milk I have.
     
    There is a difference between religion and spirituality, and I am not proposing a “food religion” as you suggest.  I know and base my life upon the fact that what I eat, where it comes from, how it is produced and who provides it to me will definitely impact my karma.  Do you disagree?

  15. "A scientist such as yourself should realize that you are not stating facts about raw milk; you are selecting anecdotal and often incorrectly reported incidents that support your presumptions."

    I suggest you state your case, rather than hand-waving about relative risks. Show me the peer-reviewed studies that support your notion that raw milk is safe, errr, safer than pasteurized milk. Or at the very least, safe enough that it should be allowed on the market. If a particular model of rifle kept blowing up in the hunters' face, it should be taken off the market - no one is suggesting outlawing milk altogether, which is what the analogy would mean when properly applied.

    "I wouldn’t say that a person’s spiritual well being depends exclusively on what they eat".... I didn't say you said that. Who said "exclusively"? You're setting up a straw man and knocking it down. But nonetheless you implied that heating milk would harm someone's spiritual well-being.

    "I am saying that I want the legal right to purchase my preferred alternative, which is raw milk from pasture raised ruminants." Don't forget the intermediate steps - you are asking for the legal right to have milk extracted and bottled raw, stored and shipped for a distance, and made available in stores to be purchased, while in the interim, contaminating bacteria grow. If you really want it straight out of the cow, why not live on a farm?

    "I know and base my life upon the fact that what I eat, where it comes from, how it is produced and who provides it to me will definitely impact my karma." I disagree in that I do not believe in Karma. (This is a religious concept - and it doesn't help your case that you don't have a food religion.) I agree in that we have a responsibility to eat food in a way that minimizes negative impacts and maximizes positive ones, particularly where human beings come into play. But again, you can have all of that, and pasteurize the milk.

    "Again, human beings have thrived on raw milk for thousands of years and there is no reason why we cannot continue to do so."

    They've also died on raw milk for thousands of years. It's called pathogens, and they had them back then, too.

    Put up the science - you are suggesting that I'm going off of mere anecdote, yet you do not cite a single study in support of your position. About a year ago I made a simple and instructive calculation based upon the rate of raw milk drinkers, and the known rates of illness connected to it. The result was a staggering number of illnesses should everyone consume it. I can redo the calculation if you like, but if your position is indeed science-based, let's have it. :D

  16. We risk our lives when we eat ground beef, we risk our lives when we turn on the tap, we risk our lives when we smoke or drink or any number of other things.  However, all those things are legal to consume and they generally just contain warnings so that people can make their own choice.  Why should raw milk be treated any differently? Are you sure there is not some other hidden agenda behind the anti-raw milk folks, such as wanting to abolish small producers, direct farmer-to-consumer sales, or perhaps the availability of raw milk might get more and more consumers asking, "why do we have to cook our milk? what is in it? what are the conditions in which dairy cows are living in?"  I think the availability of unadulterated, fresh, real foods scares the food industrialists because they know that it will lead to consumers questioning their practices. They prefer the fascist way of one choice, one way of thinking, no questions asked....or else.

  17. Rebecca: i couldn't agree with you more!   But we also need to remember that farm practices make a huge difference.  I'm not saying that you can never find E. coli O157:H7 at a small dairy that produces raw milk from grass-fed cows, but it's a lot less likely (as long as the farmer is strictly adhering to good farming practices, and is serious about sanitation, etc.)   And indeed, the California veterinarians who inspected Organic Pastures in Cali. after the e. coli scare a few years ago were flabbergasted that they couldn't find a trace of E. coli O157:H7 anywhere on (or in) his heard.  Mark McAfee wasn't surprised--he feeds his cows grass and their poop has much less bacteria (for more on this case, see this excellent article: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/04/0081992

    Inoculated Mind is right that if huge industrial dairies began producing raw milk, and selling it across the land, we'd have a lot of sick people out there.  But that's because when you scale anything up (see Starbucks, McDonalds, et all) the quality goes WAY down. So happily we continue having a two-tier system: raw milk for those who crave and feel better drinking it (and spend more $$ on it) and pasteurized milk for those who don't want to take the risk (and think pasteurized milk tastes fine, I'm guessing?).  

  18. Re: Hannah,

    I was talking about if we multiplied the number of small dairies that currently produce raw milk out to a number that could produce enough for everyone. If we were to multiply the number of people that get sick from raw milk under current conditions by the same factor, that it would be a huge number of people getting sick. I'm sure though that if some of those huge dairies produced raw milk that it could be worse than that.

    Re: Rebecca T.

    The conditions under which dairy cows are raised are rightly criticized, and this and other problems can and should be dealt with. But abandoning pasteurization as a means to achieve this doesn't sound to me like a good idea. We do take risks in everything we do, but that doesn't mean we should abandon reasonable safety protocols that attempt to reduce such risks. Are seat belts 'fascist'?

  19. Seat belts aren't fascist. They're a safety device. I chose to use them. I have a friend who doesn't. If someone forces us to use them then that is wrong. People should have the choice to dash their head against the windshield. Choices have consequences. People should not be forced to fit anyone's idea of safety. Likewise if you choose not to use the safety devices then you run risks and shouldn't be able to sue for that hurdle. You should have the right to deselect yourself from the evolutionary process. Darwinism rules.

  20. Kara says:

    re: inoculated mind

    I understand what you are saying about raw milk on a large scale.  Ideally,  someday I'd like to see more small-medium scale farms and have them serve the local population.  This of course, requires huge shifts, not just in how we farm, but in how we set up cities, land, and how we view food, etc.

    However, in a lot of states it is not legal to purchase raw milk from a small dairy farm...even from your next door neighbor.  It's not always practical for everyone to have a cow, but if I wanted to buy raw milk, it would be illegal in my state, no matter how it was produced or how I was purchasing it or how fresh it was.  I would at least like the option for me to buy milk the way I want it.  In my opinion, either way, there is a risk.  There may be a greater risk in drinking poorly taken care of raw milk, but pasteurized milk still has some element of risk, as it is food.  Any food contains a risk and there are things we can do to minimize that risk. And I personally feel as though buying milk from my neighbor's farm that is taken care of and doesn't travel far, is less risky than buying milk from a mega-farm that I have no idea how it is cared for or what hormones are used.  But, I don't legally have that option.

    Anyway, regarding this post, I really appreciate it!  I do think that if people want to drink raw milk, there needs to be truthful education about it.  Of course, it is hard to sift through all the information because each side is sponsoring their own studies and such.  But still, the raw milk side has a lot to loose if we aren't honest about the product. 

    I really appreciate that this site most often provides a balanced, practical opinion on this and isn't always alarmist about everything.  It's easy to be idealist, but it is a lot harder to flesh out how this could practically work out in reality.

  21. Matt says:

    Rebecca T. is right that the real issue is of relative risks of raw milk to other socially accepted activities, behaviors, and practices. It's not about the relative risks of raw and pasteurized milk. 

    And perhaps seat belts aren't fascist, but as Inoculated Mind recognizes early on, they are paternalistic, and that's enough to be suspicious of them. For, as a general rule, the state has no interest in protecting me from myself, only from harm I may do to others.

    Motorcycle helmet laws, perhaps in contrast to seat belt laws (though it's an empirical question), can be justified on the grounds that treating motorcycle riders who have been in accidents puts a burden on the state, because of the rate at which they crash, the seriousness of their injuries, and their frequent lack of insurance for covering the damage they do to themselves.  But the laws can't be justified on the grounds that motorcycle riders need to be protected for their own sake.

    Likewise with raw milk.

    Things are slightly more complicated when the question is whether I should be allowed to give my children raw milk. But then the question reverts back to a more general one of what level of risk a guardian may impose on one in their care before the state regards the action as willful endangerment. And I bet the risks of raw milk would look pretty reasonable next to many many other things we think are just fine.

    But no anti-raw milk folks talk about relative risk (to other activities, behaviors, etc.). Which is one reason one has to wonder, as Rebecca T. does, what's really driving this issue. As some of the regulators Amanda quotes imply, there are much better uses of limited public health and law enforcement funds than going after raw milk.

    Which is not to say that I think it should be totally unregulated, just sensibly regulated. In fact, I think the herd shares in many states (like mine, MI) are a near-perfect solution -- I sign the contract, I take responsibility for my actions.  No one can do this accidentally, and anyone thinking about it will very easily come across the information that tells them it's a bad idea. If they choose not to believe that information, or they think the conclusions of danger are overstated (as I do, precisely because we aren't given information about the sort of relative risk assessment we need), they can still sign the form. If they have doubts, they can choose not to. 

    - Matt

  22. mark mcafee says:

    Amanda,

    I really enjoyed and appreciated your raw milk study. The data matched what we have found in our internal studies as well. You should continue to study this subject and publish your results. 

    especially interesting would be to determine the types of medical conditions that raw milk appears to make much better.  

     Mark McAfee

  23. Sylvie says:

    Eating raw chicken or raw pork may very well make you sick. Yet we can buy both. Why the ban on raw milk? I would like to be able to buy the food I want with the understanding of the risk attached with it. That's all. Truth in labeling.

  24. Wow, I was actually a little surprised that after a little while, several people came down against the requirement to wear seat belts. (I meant to ask, "Is the requirement to wear seat belts fascist? But everyone knew what I meant.) Kudos for being consistent on that one.

    But let's take it to the next level. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children, but what if a parent decides to forego seat belts for their children? Should they be allowed to unnecessarily put their kids at that kind of risk? (In the car seat belt issue I believe they should not) Then by extension to the raw milk issue...?

    I for one do not know how raw milk should be regulated, or whether it should be legal or not. But what I do know is that the people who are actively advocating its consumption and claim that it is safer than pasteurized milk seem to either have a vested financial or ideological interest, which leads them to make misleading claims. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a poor source of information compared to government food safety and health institutions.

    For example, Hannah Wallace claims above that no E. coli O157:H7 was found in the Fresno dairy cows. This is not true, according to this document, they did in fact find O157:H7 in the cows, however they did not find the exact same strain as was in the outbreak. (The samples were collected on different dates which could explain the discrepancy.) These were grass-fed organic cows, just like the grass-fed cows that were one mile from the Spinach field in the Salinas Valley that harbored the exact outbreak strain that was on the spinach. These were cows that were 'cared for' in every sense, yet, they still carried pathogens that could get into the milk, and have.

    The WAPF was actually fighting AB 1735, and gave false information in this press release, while accusing the California Department of Public Health of lying. They repeated the falsehood that no pathogens were found on the farm. I hope they take Bill Marler seriously, because this kind of stuff can land them in deep E. coli-tainted shit.

    I didn't respond to FarmBoy's statement about emotion above, but I now feel I have to: "Why should my desire to drink raw milk trump the way that you feel for people who are hurt by the practice? I’m sorry, you’ll have to take responsibility for your emotions all by yourself."

    I think people really need to think about whether their views of food safety regulations come from a selfish personal desire or from considering the consequences of how those regulations affect other people. (I am not saying that everyone here who is in support of raw milk is guilty of the former.) I think I am taking responsibility for my emotions by putting them out there for people to consider. Compassion is not a personal problem to be dealt with privately, by definition it is an outward emotion, which I as a liberal humanist cannot ignore.

  25. Amanda Rose says:

    The safety belt and helmet law comparisons are interesting, but most of us likely see some value in belts and helmets and don’t see any particular good in avoiding them. I do know of one exception – a friend of mine thinks a car seat/belt is actually more dangerous than the lack of one (even those devices that are age-appropriate for his daughter). He does not belt her and risks a hefty ticket. I suppose he is somewhat comparable to a person buying raw milk as pet food in a state where even herd shares are explicitly outlawed, though in the pet food case I don’t know what legal ramifications there are for the consumer.

  26. mark mcafee says:

    Dear Innoculated Mind,

    A more careful reading of the DHS investigational data reveals that three heifers not in the milking herd were found to have positive samples of ecoli 0157H7. These were heifers that were in organic transition and were not even in milk yet. These young cows had only been on the farm a short period of time.

    When we tested ever cow on the farm again in 2008 (using the CDFA lab in LA ) we found zero positive samples of ecoli 0157h7.

    This does  not mean that it will never be found...it is just the data.

    Ecoli 0157h7 has been found in wild range fed deer. So it is everywhere. This is all about what the concentrations are and what the conditions are that support this tough antibiotic resistsant bad bug.

    Remember that ecoli 0157h7 did not exist prior to the late 1970s. It came out of gene engineering or antibiotic abuse....you pick...no one really knows which.

    We do know that those that drink raw milk are exposed to very low levels of hundreds of different bacteria and many are related closely to ecoli 0157h7. Immunity is imparted by this exposure.

    So if you drink raw milk often  you will probably not even know it if you drink some with 0157h7.

    That is the beauty of raw milk and its biodiversity. It is also important to note that not one sample of raw milk from Claravale or OPDC has ever tested positive for ecoli 0157h7 ever....inj 82 years of testing by the state of CA.

    50,000 people per week drink raw milk in CA from 400 stores. They are very happy and getting healthier every day. A PBS documentary will cover the raw milk story.

    Raw milk does not exist in a vacume....we unfortunately no longer live on a mother nature made and evolved earth.....our little earth has been crapped all over by Monsanto and bioenginneering GMO lovers and modern medical wastes and antibiotic residues. Us organic growers must deal with this in addition to mother nature. We have a real fight on our hands. There is a huge conflict on earth between the natural immunity systems and those that wish to use synthetics to kill everything....

    This battle will define our futures in the next few years. Superbugs will win if we do not stop trying to kill everything. They are smarter than us all and they will morph to adapt to our attacks. Lets work with bacteria and in doing so...become stronger and one hell of a lot happier. Doctors in CA are saying this every day to their patients as they also realize that antibiotic use is futile and short sighted. Raw milk is being prescribed by medical professors at UCSF ( University of CA at San Fransico ). the paradigm is changing and I am proud to be part of it.

    By the way....no where anywhere is it possible to be perfect or guarantee zero pathogens. That is some ones pipe dream. We can only try our best and in doing so approach perfect and build a more perfect immune system as we work on rebuilding what man has so badly destroyed and damaged.

    All the best,

    Mark MCAfee
    Founder OPDC

  27. milkfan says:

    Mark,

    "These were heifers that were in organic transition and were not even in milk yet. These young cows had only been on the farm a short period of time. "

    I was curious about this explanation.  Haven't you said in the past that your herd is "closed," meaning that replacement heifers are born and raised on your dairy? 

  28. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the interesting article Amanda.

    Gayle,
    I completely agree with you. My father grew up on a 30+ acre farm with his three brothers, and they had one milking cow, and for 15 years they all drank raw milk without any repercussions or major illness. Granted, my grandparents only had the one cow and kept a very clean farm in which they grew alfalfa/hay for that ONE cow. My grandfather was an areo-space engineer, and so he subsidized the farm with his income. What the four boys didn't drink in the morning and night my grandma usually made into butter or cheese (the later would be given out for presents).

    I think raw-milk can work on an extremely small scale; few cows on a lot of acres that are well maintained only to be available to consume by those who are in close proximity. Outside of that, it can become sketchy. Thus, pasteurization.

  29. Matt says:

    Mark McAfee writes: "We do know that those that drink raw milk are exposed to very low levels of hundreds of different bacteria and many are related closely to ecoli 0157h7. Immunity is imparted by this exposure.
    So if you drink raw milk often  you will probably not even know it if you drink some with 0157h7.

    That is the beauty of raw milk and its biodiversity."

    Is there a good, non-ideologically aligned source for information on this? As a raw milk drinker, I'd like it to be true, and, from what I understand about how our immune systems get built, it makes some intuitive sense, but I'd like to learn more. (And, as Inoculated Mind and Amanda indicate, WAP isn't necessarily a trustworthy source.)
    _____
    Amanda writes: "most of us likely see some value in belts and helmets and don’t see any particular good in avoiding them." Lots of motorcyclists don't see value in helmets and want the option to refuse to wear them. They may be crazy, but unless the harm that results is born by others (directly, or indirectly, as in the form of costs of treatment born by the states), I'm inclined to think they should be allowed to follow their own judgment, crazy as it may seem to me. 

    In that sense, raw milk is exactly analogous. Others may think I'm completely nuts for wanting to drink it, but unless I am harming someone besides myself, there is no compelling state interest in preventing me from consuming it.

    This is, I think, *the* crucial issue in the "debate." Science does not tell us whether or not raw milk or anything else should be legal. Science may help us quantify the risks involved in various activities, and we each ought to seek out the best information as we decide how to act, but the legal permissibility of an activity has (or ought to have) everything to do with who is put at risk by it and to what extent. If the potential for harm is only to oneself, and the risk to others is at a level that we as a society generally agree is acceptable (and we can't eliminate risks to others, so it's always a threshold question), then the activity should be legal.

    - Matt

  30. Gayle says:

    I realize that this article is US-based, but wanted to point out that there are more than simple consumer risks for milk-from-farm sales in Canada. We run a quota-based system here that, while not perfect, does help with sustainability and mitigating overproduction. Milk-from-farm sales work outside of the system, unjustly penalizing farmers who pay for quota to produce as well as bypassing testing procedures.

  31. Farmboy says:

    This has been a good thread, although like the Raw Milk Conundrum conference itself it has been diminished by a shortage of folks truly knowledgeable about raw milk.  I'm certainly no expert on the subject myself - my passion for raw milk is ground in my experience drinking it and reading from qualified sources.  I cannot let the allegation that the Weston Price Foundation is an "untrustworthy" source of information go undisputed.  Please, if this subject is of interest to you, review the Price website for yourself, attend a chapter meeting or, best of all participate in the upcoming annual conference in Chicago this fall. 
    Here's a nutshell version of the USDA's dietary guidelines:  Eat loads of refined carbohydrates and minimal amounts of low- and n0-fat animal protein.  Supplement with fruits and vegetables.  Also, all sources of a specific food are equivalent - doesn't matter how the food was raised or processed.  This is precisely the game plan that has led to the worst human health crisis in our country's history.  It's regrettable that the common sense methodology of Weston Price - study the dietary practices that kept human communities physically and emotionally fit for millennia - is today so readily trumped by the proprietary interests of corporate agribusiness and their governmental hand maidens.  We have moved in the direction of a sterile, patented and trade marked food supply cordoned off by get big or get out regulatory requirements.  Good news is that people are awakening and demanding  unfettered access to whole, natural foods - the foods that Price established were the foundation of human health across all peoples on the planet.  Please don't passively resign yourself to eating what the corporations and the government tell you is safe - think and act for yourselves.

  32. Wow, the founder of Organic Pastures is addressing my comments specifically.

    Let me respond to a few of them:
    "Remember that ecoli 0157h7 did not exist prior to the late 1970s. It came out of gene engineering or antibiotic abuse….you pick…no one really knows which."

    Where did you get this information? I think you are perpetuating cultural mythology here. Can you point me to the peer-reviewed research paper that establishes the origin of E.coli O157:H7, and pins down the date as you have?
    Last I checked this shigella-toxin producing bacterium acquired its virulence from natural horizontal gene transfer, not genetic engineering. And antibiotics have nothing to do with it. (Except that if you are infected with it you shouldn't take antibiotics because it releases the toxin.)

    "Ecoli 0157h7 has been found in wild range fed deer. So it is everywhere."
    That seems to argue against the recent artificial origin hypothesis you put forward.

    "Raw milk does not exist in a vacume….we unfortunately no longer live on a mother nature made and evolved earth…"
    A bacterial pathogen that acquired its shiga toxin through natural horizontal gene transfer is perfectly compatible with an 'evolved Earth,' in fact, it is to be expected. However, the pseudo-religious "Mother Nature Made" part of your statement does not fit with this information. I see this point of view as being little different from a creationist perspective on reality. To assume that the Universe has your well being in mind is not a reasonable assumption. You might want to take a look at a book called "Naturally Dangerous" by James Collman.

    You argue that people's immune systems are weakened here, and on your site you say that that is why they get infected with pathogens. Allow me to quote your site and critique a critical passage:
    "It is possible, but highly unlikely, that pathogens may be transmitted in raw milk just as they may be transmitted in all other foods. OPDC has demonstrated that even when high levels of pathogens were introduced into raw milk, they die off and do not grow (BSK tests). In fact, pathogen killing safety systems are hard at work, keeping raw milk safe even if it has been contaminated. OPDC products are highly pathogen resistant. Because OPDC can not predict the future and know what is yet to come, it is possible that someday a pathogen may be detected in OPDC raw milk. If you are a healthy OPDC consumer this should have no noticeable effect. Your immune system will deal with it and you will probably not even know that a pathogen was in your raw dairy product." (emphasis added)

    As this very post describes, the other bacteria in raw milk DO NOT kill pathogenic bacteria, so like the Weston Price Foundation you are providing false information on your website. You are also overstepping your authority to make epidemiological claims about what effect pathogens in your milk will have on your customers. Please provide an explanation and a factual source for this information, or please let us all know that you have removed the false, un-sourced, and questionable information from your website. (As the post suggests, you might be sued.... again).

    I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on pathogenic bacteria, my expertise is in plant genetics. But I also know how to read an understand scientific papers in a variety of topics. Could you please point me to the information about where specifically those three O157:H7-carrying cows were, and answer Milkfan's question about where these three cows came from? Is your herd closed or not?

    Also, when I was reading about the outbreak back in 2006, I pulled a document about not being able to guarrantee that milk has arrived unsoured. Has Organic Pastures ever issued a statement to their customers that they will be unable to guarrantee (with reimbursement or replacement) that raw milk will arrive to their customers unsoured?

    I agree with you that we should not strive to eliminate every last pathogen, because it leads us into the absurdity of sterility. But this doesn't mean that the opposite should be the case. Your dairy is unique in that you published the ongoing tests of your milk products, however, you are making questionable factual claims about raw milk, and in essence, blaming any problem on the 'military-agri-industrial complex', or the immune systems of your customers. You would do well to heed the warnings of the post that started this excellent thread.

  33. *err, shiga-toxin, third paragraph. I thought I edited that mistake already.

  34. mother of a raw milk victim says:

    Farmboy, I think you missed the point about WAPF and raw milk.  WAPF has a wide variety of nutritional education information, raw milk being one aspect of a healthy, traditional diet.  The point is that raw milk can harbor and transmit deadly pathogens.  Feeding cows a grass only diet does not change this fact.  There have been multiple raw milk outbreaks since 2005, the majority involving the bacteria E.coli 0157:H7 and the victims being children.
     
    If an organization is going to promote a food as “healthy and healing” that can harbor pathogenic bacteria, they need to present this information openly and honestly, not down play it as a remote possibility.  Informed choice means just that—informed.  WAPF encourages the use of raw milk, writes endless documents about the positive aspects of drinking raw milk, but does nothing to educate people about the real dangers that could happen if the milk was contaminated. 
     
    A person can “think and act for themselves” when they are presented with accurate information.  The survey results Amanda Rose presented at the AVMA conference demonstrates that raw milk drinkers believe false information about raw milk and this false information turns into false beliefs (which they think are true beliefs) which influences people’s choices for consuming raw milk. 
     
    I think raw milk drinkers would appreciate accurate information from the leaders in the raw milk movement.  All Sally Fallon has to do is create a page that lists all the possible pathogens that can be found in raw milk, along with the illnesses they cause.  Now people can make an informed decision when choosing raw milk for their families.
     

  35. Eric Reuter says:

    Several items not fully considered on this and most discussions about raw milk:

    1) Raw milk is also an ingredient, not just a drink. Many folks use it (or would like to) for home production of cheese and/or yogurt, which process renders it safe because the temperatures involved are higher than pasteurization. This would include us; we do not drink our goat milk raw, but make it into products for home use, because the results are of higher quality and cheaper than anything we can buy. Most grocery store milk is not suitable for this purpose because of the level to which it has been homogenized. Thus, unless you have a nearby direct-market pasteurized dairy, raw milk from a small farm may be your only choice for this enjoyable and economical hobby. We have multiple people who have asked to buy raw goat's milk from us for home cheesemaking, whom we have refused because of the legal and practical issues.

    2) We already have a clear precedent in this country for allowing consumers to purchase hazardous food products and consume/use at their own risk, as long as warnings are provided. Raw meat is the most obvious; we can purchase the stuff at a store with no guarantee that we don't wolf it down as is, and we can order a nearly rare burger or steak at any restaurant as long as the menu carries the appropriate government warning that the results are our problem, not anyone else's. Even more relevent is the sale of sushi/sashimi in restaurants and stores; last month I ate at a small restaurant offering sashimi with the same government warning on the menu. I fail to see how raw fish shipped through the global food system and prepared in a kitchen inspected a couple times a year by an overworked city agency is "safe" for human consumption when raw milk purchased from a known farm and farmer is "unsafe", particularly if it is to be treated like meat, as an ingredient rather than a drink.

    3) Why can't we simply apply a strong government label to any raw milk stating that "The surgeon general has determined that consumption of raw milk is hazardous to human health and should only be undertaken by adults; heat all milk to 160F before using". There, everyone's butt is covered, and people who want to take chances with raw industrial fish or raw local milk or tobacco or what have you can do it without increasing the tort burden on everyone else. What is the problem here?

  36. Kelly in Ohio says:

    Inoculated Mind,

    I think Mark is confusing the first recognition of human illnesses from E. coli O157:H7 with the evolutionary process that lead to the emergence of the strain, which was complex and not recent (see references below).  Doctors and public health officials first described E. coli O157:H7 as a cause of human illness in the late 70's or early 80's (depending on which reference you look at).  The discovery of this emerging pathogen happened because doctors started to notice HUS in children with bloody diarrhrea, health officials were documenting unusual outbreaks (linked to eating undercooked ground beef), and laboratories developed diagnostic assays to detect E. coli O157:H7 in patient stools that didn't exist prior to the 1980's.  Obviously, this does not translate into the bacterial strain itself being new.

    More information on the evolution of E. coli O157:H7

    Evolution of Genomic Content in the Stepwise Emergence of Escherichia coli O157:H7
    http://jb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/187/5/1783

    Escherichia coli O157:H7 Shiga Toxin-Encoding Bacteriophages: Integrations, Excisions, Truncations, and Evolutionary Implications
    http://jb.asm.org/cgi/reprint/185/12/3596

    Genome evolution in major Escherichia coli O157:H7 lineages
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/8/121

  37. Andrew says:

    Regardless of what the naysayers think (and say...), I have never been healthier from drinking raw milk. Pasteurized milk destroys my stomach because all of the enzymes, including the lactase that breaks down lactose, are eliminated from the heat. I always wondered in my teenage years why I had stomach problems and finally came to the realization that it was from pasteurized milk. I have never gotten sick from raw milk and, regardless, there is no scientific or logical reason why it should be banned for everyone. If you must, put a warning label on it, but nobody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot drink. By thy way, I got salmonella as a small child from the largest outbreak of salmonella ever...and it was from pasteurized milk in Chicago. Over 250,000 people, I believe, became ill from it. The outbreaks from pasteurized milk far outweigh the (alleged) outbreaks from unpasteurized. In fact, many of the cases of raw milk "outbreaks" are never even legitimately verified as the true source. Once case I am aware of were some Mexicans who brought home raw milk from a filthy, factory dairy farm - the type of raw milk you would NOT want to drink. The point is, there is a bias to the whole thing that protects industrial dairies whose practices put out of business the small, family dairies and make themselves a fortune. The homogenization allows them to skim most of the cream even off "whole" milk just to squeeze by the government's minimum content requirements. It is all a scam and the scares over raw milk are way overblown. More people become ill from lunchmeat than they do from raw milk but we don't see raw milk banned. Only the rationally inept believe that raw milk should be banned or that people should not have the choice to use their own brains in choosing their own personal food options. Get over your degrees and scientific "pedigree" and stop telling people what to do.

  38. Andrew says:

    Correction: "More people become ill from lunch meat than they do from raw milk but we don't see LUNCH MEAT banned."

  39. Amanda Rose says:

    Hi everyone. I've had some technical problems here and unsuccessfully tried to post a couple of responses. Thanks everyone for a great discussion! "Mother of a raw milk victim" cited my survey and I wanted to clarify that there will be a paper (hopefully soon). It is on the information environment and will be interesting in light of this Marler threat.

    I agree with you, Andrew, on our right to choose.

    Amanda

  40. Jason M says:

    Lets wake up to reality, there is no such thing as a completely safe food, and just because a food is supposed to be inhereintly health (i.e. raw milk, liver, etc.) does not mean that you can never get sick from it.

    While in no way am I trying to diminish the sickness of the child, or the hell that the mother went through after she claims contaminated raw milk sickened her child, it could have easily happen to the baby from drinking pastuerized milk. I find it a little weird for her to go around from conference to conference, and trying to demonize farm fresh milk because she had a terrible experience...would she have done that if her son became sick from a vegetable? Go around and demonize some lettuce. I think now.

    I personally have never gotten sick from drinking farm fresh milk, but I know that there is always a chance that I could. The healthier your immunse system and body, mind, spirit, the less likely it will kill you or cause permanent damage. I try to include more whole, fresh foods, that are high in fat and nutrient dense to support my immune system.

    Bill Marler is a little bit of a shark. Food safety lawyer? There is no need to go after small family farmers, unless there is an obvious negligence on their behalf. I would rather get a little sick from food that I got from a small family farm that can be traced and corrected, then from a tv dinner. You have to offer some trust in this world, and who better than to find a reliable source of food from a small family farm.

  41. Jason M says:

    mother of a raw milk victim,

    Pasteurized milk can harbor many pathonegic strains of bacteria, yet there is no labelling on pasteurized products that are seen everywhere, not to mention things like Cheez Wiz, etc. that sit on store shelves unrefrigerated. Do you think there should be labelling on any product that you buy containing milk?

    What about 'milk ingredients' or 'modified milk ingredients' that are shipped over from China and other countries? There is no labelling for these. Companies can still label cream on the ingredients, even if it is made of 'milk ingredients' and gums and fillers. Cream should have one ingredient, CREAM.

    I think what needs to come back in effect full swing is FOOD IMITATION laws. The majority of the food that you buy from a supermarket would be classified as 'imitation food'. If it wasn't for synethic vitamins and 'fortification' brough in by the food industry, most modern industrially processed 'food' would never have existed or gone as far spread due to the past food imitation laws in the states and elsewhere.

    And, I definately agree that the WAPF information on raw milk, etc needs to be updated to convey possible risks, but they should and can also mentiont he risks of pasteurized milk products, and well, pre-made salads too!

  42. Chark says:

    It seems to me homogenization is more of a concern than to pasteurize or not.  At least pasteurization is concerned with a health issue. Homogenization is done only to "improve" taste, and for me has the opposite effect - what a pity un-homogenized milk is so hard to purchase.

  43. Re: Kelly in Ohio,

    My point exactly. Mark McAfee seems to think that the discovery of E. coli 0157:H7 is the same thing as its origin. I've seen those papers about its origin in passing, but I think Mark would benefit a great deal by at least reading the abstracts and understanding something about microbiology before opining on the subject. Thanks for posting it!

    Re: Andrew: Yes, more people in numbers have gotten sick from pasteurized milk, however, they also make up the vast majority of people who drink milk. The per-capita rates, however, don't look so good. Mark McAfee said that 50,000 people drink raw milk in California per week, and given that there are 36 million people in California, most of them who consume milk and milk products each week, if you do the math the present rate of outbreaks in raw milk would become huge if ramped up in scale. (This was discussed earlier in the comments, and by ramping up in scale I mean more raw milk producing dairies not larger raw milk producing dairies).

    Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that 25,000,000 people drink pastuerized milk in CA, and that Mark's figure of 50,000 is correct. So there are 500 times more people drinking pasteurized milk than raw milk each week. So for every one person who gets sick off of raw milk at current rates of production/consumption, 500 people would be sick if everyone in the state drank raw milk. So you can't just count up the number, you have to extrapolate. Similarly, the relative risks of raw vs. pastuerized milk have to be weighed against the number of people who drink it.

    "Only the rationally inept believe that raw milk should be banned or that people should not have the choice to use their own brains in choosing their own personal food options. Get over your degrees and scientific “pedigree” and stop telling people what to do."

    As I said earlier, I don't know how raw milk should be regulated, if it is to be legal in stores. But I find your statement rife with anti-intellectualism - 'damn the facts and the people who make you read them!' Degrees do not mean someone is right - that takes evidence. Do you therefore disagree that the government should regulate food safety, and if necessary, impose certain food safety practices on vulnerable parts of the food system.

    I wonder how you feel about other kinds of regulations - do you agree that there should be no seat belt laws? As for deli meats - a lot of people eat them, do you have some figures that show that the rate of sickness per person that eats them is higher than that of raw milk?

    I'd also like to mention that there's a difference between "farm fresh" raw milk and raw milk bottled and shipped to stores that sit around. Mark McAfee can chime in about his company's 'we can no longer guarantee unsoured milk' memo anytime...

  44. mother of a raw milk victim says:

    Jason, let me express that I could have chosen to post under any name with my comment, but I specifically posted with “mother of a raw milk victim”.  I wanted to see how long it would take for someone to make a personal attack.  This is what I have learned about some advocates of raw milk, they make personal attacks instead of sticking to the facts.  If you didn’t like my statement, then disagree with it.  You don’t have to stoop to attacking me personally.
     
    Here is what you stated, “I find it a little weird for her to go around from conference to conference, and trying to demonize farm fresh milk because she had a terrible experience…would she have done that if her son became sick from a vegetable? Go around and demonize some lettuce. I think now.”
     
    Why did you assume I was at the conference?  Here’s where Amanda Rose’s survey information can be found http://www.thecompletepatient.com/storage/ARsurvey.pdf .
     
    I think it is a little weird that you would assume I attend all raw milk conferences and while at them demonize raw milk.  If something is to be demonized, it is pathogens.  Regardless of the food source, they can make a person extremely ill, even kill them.  As for your reference to vegetables, I don’t support the sale of pre-washed, bagged lettuce or spinach.  If people really knew how vulnerable they were for pathogen contamination, they would never purchase the product in this manner.    

  45. Jason M says:

    I actually did not make a personal attack on you. I have come across the same name several times. While, I think it it definately important to address risks (of any food!) to the public, they should not be made to merely fear the food, as most people have been. If you look through FDA and other government information it is clearly more marketing and advertising than any actual information, and they NEVER reference pasteurized milk product outbreaks. Never have I seen one time. I did a huge presentation on a cheese course I took on the subject.

    Believe me I came across it daily as I worked in a cheese store. I would see expectant mothers fearful of all things raw milk. You would swear they thought if they physically touched it at all, that there baby would instantly die, yet more than half of them at the same time were consuming processed crap from stores around the area (that was full of margarine, enriched white flour, deep fried in vegetable oils, etc.). I mean c'mon. They were completely un-educated on anything to do with pasteurization. Plus, I would let them know that cheese from pasteurized milk could be contaminated as well, they would always give me this dumb expression.   Like, how can you put things in your mouth without not education yourself at least a little bit, beyond a simple headline.

    If you look at most outbreaks in Europe (where raw milk cheese is consumed much more), the pasteurized cheese has MUCH higher potential to be contaminated. You should see the bacterial counts that pre-pasteurized milk is allowed to have.

    Anyone that thinks that dairies should be in control of multi-national corporations and factory farms is an idiot! Pure and simple. (This was NOT directed at you, I am saying this as a general statement). I would feel a lot better getting sick from a local milk, then getting sick from and industrial product. I think the way that I eat helps my immune system a lot, and I do not fear food.

  46. Blake says:

    All food, no matter it's source, no matter what has been done to it, represents some sort of risk. There is no avoiding it. Without intending to minimize anyone's suffering, I think the risks of raw milk have been vastly overblown. First off, I think the number of raw milk consumers is a very difficult number to produce. In many states raw milk sales are banned either completely or in part, yet people find ways to get around these laws. Secondly, I recently consulted a chart put together by Cornell of all the outbrakes of disease that have been linked to milk, pasteurized and unpasteurized, since 1973. Of all the outbreaks atributed to raw milk, I found several where in which it was linked to consumting milk, but when the milk was traced back to the farm, no trace of the organism could be found anywhere, including on the bottling equipment, in any of the other milk, or even in the cow's manure. Furthermore, if the problem truly was with the milk, it would be likely to be in more than a single bottle, and therefore you would probably see more than a single person, single family, or other single consumer unit getting sick. I have a suspicion that raw milk tends to get fingered because when people get sick, the milk is always something that they list as having consumed, since there is such a good deal of propaganda against it. Most of the time, when this is being investigated, it is days after, and there are not direct samples of the product in question. Or, if there are, they stand a large chance of being contaminated. Another thing I spotted was people getting sick from unpasturized milk mistakenly marked as pasturized, or from pasturized milk contaminated with raw milk. Milk meant for pasturization is allowed by law in most states to have an extremely high pathogen content (50,000 colony forming organizims/ ml, I think, compared the the FDA's recomended of 20,000 post pasturization, and california's 15,000 for both raw and pasturized for sale- some farms that test thier raw milk end up as low as less than a thousand). No one I think, is advocating drinking milk from a conventional dairy raw- that really would be suicidal. I'm not saying than nobody has ever gotten sick from raw milk, but I think it's safe to say that your chances of getting anything from it are extremely low. Like any food, you simply have to be aware of how it was produced, how clean the farm is, what the animals eat, etc.  I think we need to be concerning ourselves with a lot of other truly dangerous products, like feedlot beef, and industrial scale veggies before we start worrying about a relatively benign product.

    To adress a couple of other things mentioned; I've found that the raw milk I get keeps longer than the milk I used to buy from the store. It keeps about 3 weeks in the fridge, only just starting to sour at that point. I actually like it sour, though, so I'm even thinking on starting to leave it out on the counter overnight when I first want to drink a gallon to give it just a hint of sourness. As far as raw milk in stores, I think it's once again a question of scale. Once you start to scale your production up to meet the demands of regional distribution and the like, you start to sacrafice food safety, product quality, and enviornmental impact. So, my primary problem with raw dairy in stores, is how close it the dairy to the store it is supplying, and how large is the operation.

    Another point (last one tonight: promise) is that I think raw milk can aptly be comared to sushi. Most people who eat it are extremely careful about where they get it from, and people can (and do) get sick from improperly prepaired sushi. Cleanliness, freshness, and purity of the product in sushi are paramount. But I don't see anyone worrying about sushi in the grocery store.

  47. mark mcafee says:

    Dear Everyone....

    There have been so many comments and questions. I will not be able to address them all. I am in hurry to get to a presentation on raw fresh milk and I do not want to be late.

    As far as the no guarantee of raw milk souring is concerned....you are correct. OPDC does not gurantee the freshness of raw milk  when it is shipped to your home via UPS in a cold box. We instead counsel customers to make Kefir with any milk that may arrive sour. We do guarantee freshness and taste to all stores and consumers that buy from stores. We will give you a new product just by returning it to the store for another product.

    Remember that sour milk is not unsafe milk. It is teaming with beneficial bacteria much like Yogurt. It makes a great smoothie especially when cultured out.

    As for the BSK test conclusions....you can see from the graph that the end point bacteria counts never exceeded the levels of the original innoculum. That is why BSK concluded that raw  milk does not support the growth of pathogens very well. This was their conclusion not mine. If raw milk supported pathogen growth, you would have seen an increase in their levels. This was not seen in the BSK test as it was designed.

    Lastly.....Strategic Diagnostics Incorporated  ( SDI )Ecoli 0157H7 testing is an on farm test for Ecoli 0157H7. Not sure who said it is not...but it is an approved test. Not many people use it but it is an approved test. We also test our milk several times per week at an official lab ( Sierra Dairy Labs ). We have yet to find an Ecoli pathogen in any of our raw milk products in 9 years of testing.

    As far as immunity from Pathogens is concerned there is a published University study that found that raw milk drinkers were immune to campylobacter when those that did not drink raw milk became sick from it. See JAMA Vol. 257 #1, January 2, 1987 pages 43-46 ( Martin Blaser ) http://www.jama.ama-assn.org . Clearly the students that drank raw  milk created an immunity to Campy and did not get sick when exposed to it...others became ill because they had no immunity. This can be said of nearly all pathogens.

    Why do you think we are all supposed to be exposed to pathogens   ( as in vaccinations ).... to gain immunity from them. I will let this stand data and rationale on its own.

    As far as raw  milk freedom is concerned. If you do not want to drink it....then please do not. Just leave those of us that find tremendous value in it alone to appreciate its value. The idea that anyone will tell me what I can eat....is a position that is deeply concerning to me. This is a free country....raw milk is not perfect....no food is perfect. 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. I will defend our constituion even if you do not. If my raw milk is taken from me that means nothing is safe for any of us.  

    Perfectly pastuerized milk in MA killed three in 2007. Spinach, tomatoes, cookie dough, peanuts and hamburger have killed many people in the last several years.

    50,000 people a week in CA enjoy tested and safe ( as we can get it ) raw milk with no lactose intolerance. More and more people are making this choice. The 1800 conventional dairies in CA are going bankrupt...they  can not sell milk when it causes gas pains and diarrhea. This is a tragic consequence of not listening to real consumers and not matching the needs of the consumers physiology with the food you intend to sell to them. After a while....the GOT MILK commercials just can not do enough to cover the lie. The gas cramps and diarrhea still happen.

    Pastuerized milk sales drop....thats a simple fact.

    Economics will change market dynamics by the guiding hand of capitalism...regardless of how many millions of dollars are spent on failed GOT MILK commercials. My advice to CA diarymen, try making more cheese and yogurt...at least they have some living bacteria and people can eat it.

    All the best,

    Mark McAfee
    Founder OPDC

  48. michele reynolds / KMK Farms says:

    I was raised on raw milk, I am so thankful to be able to get this product again! We get it at the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno. We are blessed to have Mark fight the fight to keep bring us raw milk. Thank you for all your doing!
     

  49. mark mcafee says:

    Love you too Michele....

    ....you have the very best and freshest produce all year long.  

    That takes lots of work and I deeply respect what you do to provide your great veggies for us all!! 

    Mark McAfee

  50. Hillori Hansen says:

    Amen Michele!!!   Mark, I am an extremely happy and satisfied consumer of your raw milk products and will continue to drink them and support your diary and your mission to feed people  healthy food.  I'm very thankful, that I can actually buy it from the Farmer's Market here in Fresno, along with Michele's fabulous organic fruits and vegetables.   I've also bought Mark's raw milk at Whole Foods in Fresno &  New Leaf in Santa Cruz and it's always been delicous (never sour), although I would never be worried about  sour milk, as I know that I can make kefir and feed my family lots of  probiotics and "good" bacteria.  Mark has a genuine concern for his customer's and his customer's love his products.  Don't ask me, just visit the Vineyard farmer's market and check out the long line of people waiting with full size coolers to get their raw milk for the week. Hillori Hansen