There is a trend toward healthy eating and natural foods in this country, and that is a good thing. Even though some labels of "organic" only mean "twice the price," we seem to be headed in the right direction. I am a particular fan of farmers markets for locally grown produce.
The quest for natural foods, however, can go too far. Raw milk is a perfect example. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unequivocal in its findings that raw milk is dangerous and does not give benefits beyond those of pasteurized milk. The CDC lists 10 scary and unpronounceable bacteria found in raw milk, even if it comes from healthy animals. E. coli and salmonella are just the tip of the iceberg.
Remember the salmonella-tainted spinach of last year? The contaminated peanut butter? Here in the Milwaukee area, a child died of E. coli after eating contaminated food at a buffet restaurant. All of these outbreaks were from the same bacteria found in raw milk. Whole Foods has discontinued sales of raw milk following the hospitalization for renal failure of a previously healthy 7-year-old girl and 27-year-old woman in 2008. Both illnesses were traced to E. coli from raw milk purchased at Whole Foods.
And before you tell me that E. coli is commonly found in meat and produce, remember this: You can kill the bacteria by cooking the meat and washing the produce. You can’t cook or wash milk.
Oh, wait – you can. It’s called pasteurization, and it is considered one of the breakthrough scientific discoveries of the last century. Pasteurization is the only way to kill disease-causing bacteria while maintaining the healthful qualities of milk.
There are people who believe, based on isolated, anecdotal "evidence," that raw milk cures everything from autism to high blood pressure. But there is a huge difference between correlation and causation. That a child’s autism symptoms decreased after drinking raw milk means absolutely nothing. You have to conduct real medical trials, where all other variables are removed to see if the raw milk can indeed be credited, and the Food and Drug Administration will not approve those trials because they are too dangerous.
Think about that. We’re talking about legalizing sale of a product that is considered by the FDA to be too dangerous for medical trials. So dangerous that the very bill that would legalize its sale in Wisconsin, Senate Bill 434, exempts the sellers from liability for death or injury. Bill Keene, senior epidemiologist with the Oregon Division of Public Health, actually said, "I think after a few dead kids, people will lose their enthusiasm for raw milk." Who wants to volunteer their kids for this experiment?
It remains a fact that people do get very ill and die from drinking raw milk and that the same benefits can be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk. Raw milk is just not worth the risk.