Sunday, March 22, 2009

For the curious (the rest can ignore): raw milk arguments

The following passages are taken from four books that argue against raw milk - I try to research both sides of the argument. For really in-depth information visit

My comments are in italic, and words bolded are for emphasis... take what I say with grace as I am extremely biased and yes, you are encouraged to debate my logic, if the mood takes you.

Safe Food: Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. - Lisa Y. Lefferts – Anne Witte Garland - 1991

“If you (have) a weak immune system: never drink unpasteurized (raw) milk, or eat raw or undercooked... meat... or raw eggs – may increase your risk of bacterial infection (legitimate concern – if your body is weak, bad bacteria will take over. Just how does the body become weak I wonder...?).”

(This next passage made me double up with laughter)

“Another safety concern with dairy products is bacterial contamination – with the greatest risk posed by unpasteurized (raw) milk and raw-milk products. (The FDA has banned the interstate sale of raw milk.) Pasteurization kills most bacteria in milk, but pasteurized milk or milk products can also become contaminated. Pasteurization does not destroy nutrients (Oh really. I'll get to that later.). Some of the largest outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States have been linked to milk or milk products: 1. In 1982, an outbreak of food poisoning affecting some 17,000 people in Tennessee and nearby states was linked to pasteurized milk contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria. 2. In 1985, contaminated pasteurized milk from a Chicago dairy caused more than 16,000 confirmed (and as many as 200,000 unconfirmed) cases of salmonella food poisoning – several of them fatal – in six states. The salmonella was an antibiotic-resistant strain. 3. In Southern California in 1985, 47 people died – the largest number of food-poisoning deaths recorded in recent U.S. History – after eating Mexican-style soft cheese contaminated with listeria – a rarer, but deadlier bacterium than salmonella. The cheese was made in part with raw milk (ever wonder if the real contamination came from unsanitary conditions?); but an outbreak of listeriosis in Massachusetts in 1983 was linked to pasteurized milk.

(Interesting fact - CSCI listed food-poisoning outbreaks from the years 1990-2006... want to know the numbers? The highest cause of illness was produce - 768 outbreaks with 35,060 getting sick. That's 15,000 higher than poultry... dairy products weren't even on the list!)

The centralization of the food industry is partly to blame for large bacterial food poisoning outbreaks like these. It used to be that when food-borne illness occurred, only people in the local area were affected, but today large plants market their products to millions of people. Changes in dairy processing may also contribute to the problem. For instance, most dairies now make several different products – including low-fat milk, skim milk, and chocolate milk – from the same pasteurized milk. When many processing steps take place after pasteurization, more opportunities arise for recontamination.

(The author's conclusion after this essay on pasteurized milk related outbreaks)

Safe Food Choices – Buy only pasteurized (organic) milk and milk products. (Raw milk is not organic milk)”

What to Eat: Marion Nestle - 2006

“Homogenization is just mechanical mixing strong enough to break the fat into droplets so small that they stay in suspension. Pasteurization is the way dairy producers deal with microbial contaminants in milk – bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and the like (shorhand: bacteria) – that can make milk spoil. The udders of cows are anything but sterile, and even when they are washed and disinfected, bacteria still get into the milk. If you drink “raw” milk straight from the cow, you are drinking whatever bacteria fell into it.

The bacteria in dairy foods come in three categories: the beneficial ones that turn milk into cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, and other such things; the bad ones that turn milk sour and spoil it; and the even worse ones that can make you sick. Most bacteria of any type are killed by the strong acid in your stomach, and the survivors in the “worse” category are the only ones to worry about. In the past, cows were often infected with the germs for tuberculosis, brucellosis, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and other such dangerous diseases. These got into the milk and caused no end of public health woes. Pasteurization fixed those problems.

Pasteurization is a simple process. All it does is heat milk to a high enough temperature to kill most (but never all) bacteria. As a rule, the higher the temperature of pasteurization, the more bacteria are killed. But when dairy processors heat milk to a temperature high enough to sterilize is completely, the milk tastes just awful. So pasteurization is a compromise. Louis Pasteur's contribution was to find a temperature hot enough to kill a reasonable number of bacteria in a short enough time to preserve the taste. For example, pasteurization heats milk for, say, half an hour at 145F, or for just 15 seconds at about 161F. Both methods work well. Alternatively, processors can use “ultrapasteurization” and scald milk under pressure at an extremely high temperature – 285F – but for only one or two seconds. So many bacteria are killed in that short time that the milk can stay unspoiled for weeks at a time.

But even that temperature is not held long enough to kill all the bacteria and more microbes get introduced during the bottling process. Bacteria grow much faster at warm temperatures...

Homogenization and pasteurization make milk safer (so I see...) and easier to store, but they turn out to be surprisingly contentious issues for people who believe that raw milk tastes better and is healthier, or that the process of mixing milk from hundreds of different cows, separating the components and putting them back together again, and then heating them all together destroys vital components of milk (shocking concept, I know). The flavor argument has some merit. Raw milk from a single cow has a taste unique to that cow, and milk from cows fed on the same pasture will have a similar taste, but nuances in taste get lost when milk from hundreds of commercially fed cows is pooled for processing. Pasteurization makes all milk taste pretty much alike, and homogenization takes care of any variations in mouth feel.

But the loss of unique tastes is not matched by a loss in nutritional value, at least according to research on food composition. Pasteurization heats milk for so short a time that it only reduces the amounts of some of the more delicate vitamins, and only minimally at that. And it also minimally inactivates some of the proteins, but these would be inactivated by stomach acid and intestinal enzymes soon after you drank the milk anyway (In case you believe this author's unsubstantiated comments – refer to the quote from 'Rawsome' and my comments further down the page).

Although bacteria in milk are largely harmless, my personal preference is to have most of the ones in the milk I drink dead before they get in me (Including all the good ones – makes a lot of sense. I hate to bring up this unwelcome information, but in lab tests when e-coli is introduced to raw milk from pasture-grazing cows, it DIES. We're talking the ultimate in natural anti-biotics here.). I am not opposed to raw milk on principle, and I believe that it is quite possible to consume it safely, especially when, as the more reasonable proponents or raw milk advise, you know the “animal care standards and sanitary practices of your milk producers.” If knowing those things were even remotely possible for someone like me who hardly ever visits dairy farms, I might feel differently about this issue. If I could see for myself that a raw milk producer had a well-designed and well-monitored safety system in place and was testing regularly for harmful bacteria, I would worry less about drinking it. The FDA counts 200-300 illnesses a year from drinking raw milk (the Federal Department of Agriculture is largely responsible for inadequately testing drugs and food products and wreaking havoc on the health of unsuspecting consumers... what reason have they given us to believe any claim they hold? Do they really have a motive to care about the health of you and me as individuals?) and does not allow it to be sold across state lines. I would much rather avoid such illness (as you've said, drink pasteurized milk and you'll be 'safe' from those epidemic bacterial outbreaks), and I view pasteurization as a small price to pay for not having to worry about whether milk is safe to drink.”

(Whew... the above authors are throwing out some rather carelessly unsubstantiated claims... and shooting themselves in the foot by contradicting themselves at every turn.)

Ultimate Smoothie Book: Cherie Calbom - 2001

“Milk is made up of protein in the form of casein and whey, water, lactose, fat, vitamins, and minerals – vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Though it is a nutritious food (you're kidding me – MILK is nutritious? I thought babies do better on dried, aluminum-laden soy milk substitute), many people are sensitive to dairy products and suffer ear infections, sinus infections, reduced immunity, and other adverse reactions because of its consumption (pasteurized, not raw). One of the reasons may be that human beings are the only animals that continue to drink milk way beyond infancy, even though the lactose enzyme wanes as we grow older (raw milk contains the needed enzymes to digest milk so your body does not have to use up its own store. Maybe God knew what He was doing when he gave Adam and Eve (adults) permission to use animals for food.). Also, the high fat content is not something that is good for anybody (no support to this claim). If you do choose cow's milk for your smoothies, choose nonfat milk or acidophilus milk. For those sensitive to the protein components of cow's milk, goat's milk may be a viable alternative, since incidence of intolerance is low compared with that of cow's milk. My recommendation for the least incidence of intolerance is soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk.”

(This author is referring to pasteurized milk from the local grocery store – which is not the same substance as raw milk from your local farmer. All of her mentions of intolerance and indigestibility do not apply to raw milk.)

Rawsome!: Brigitte Mars - 2004

“Dairy products tend to cause congestion, even in people who are not lactose intolerant or allergic to cow's milk (again, she is probably referring to pasteurized milk). Soy milk is often touted as an alternative to cow's milk, but many people find soy milk difficult to digest. Rice milk and other packaged milk alternatives are heated to high temperatures during processing, which destroys many of their naturally occurring nutrients.

The amino acids in protein start becoming destroyed at 118F and are almost completely destroyed by 160F. In terms of food, this means that cooking causes food proteins to coagulate and become denatured, making them less digestible and more likely to produce inflammation. In fact, cooking food to a temperature just under 200F causes leukocytosis, a condition wherein leukocytes (white blood cells that attack foreign substances) are called in to help with digestion. After the consumption of a meal including cooked protein, white blood cell levels increase by as much as 600 %. This immune system response indicates that the body, in striving to maintain homeostasis, is recognizing components of cooked food as invaders that must be neutralized.”

(Common sense, people – cooking your food kills it's life, i.e. enzymes, beneficial bacteria (pro-biotics), amino acids, and much, much more. Pasteurization DOES have a devastating impact on milk's nutritional value.)

Okay, now if anyone is interested, do your research - you'll be shocked. The low fat, low cholesterol, unsaturated fat, sterilization hype of the last century is largely the cause of many chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and neural disorders.

This is one part of the big picture - and ultimately it is not about raw milk, or pasteurized milk, or even food in general... it's about people turning away from their God and in the pride of their heart following their own path to destruction. Please pray with me that we don't miss this, and as a result worship the nourishing foods instead of the One who created them for our good. 


King's child said...

Wooooooow! Okay, I admit it, I had to read and then RE-read your post before things sunk in (methinks I need to go to bed).

It was good reading though. I love to read arguments about raw vs. pasturized milk....Talk about fun!
The people are always contradicting themselves at every turn and they remind me of the seagulls in 'Finding Nemo'. They never get anywhere! They just keep repeating themselves!!!

I still say raw milk ALL the way. Somebody show me a passage in the Bible, telling about Abraham or Sarah pasturizing their goat milk and then I'll think about changing my mind. :D ( yeah, I'm very biased)

One of my favorite aithors 'Juliette De Bairacli Levi' has written extensively about things like this and one thing that she often brings up is the obvious visible health of the young wild deer who are raised on RAW milk, versus the sickening health of say, farm raised calves who are seperated from their mothers after birth and are then raised on either pasturized milk (because it's safer then what their mothers would give them) or they get powder form milk. Hmmmm... Health wise I think I would rather look like the deer.

Where am I going with all this you ask? I dunno either. So that's my little insignificant say and I will end this ridiculously long comment here. :D


Garden of Glory said...

Thanks for your support, Caity - I keep adding more information to this post as I find it - there is so much out there!

I found Juliette De Bairacli Levi on Wikipedia - do you have any of her books?

Yes! The Bible is the ultimate authority in health - next is the example left us by history. Compared to these two, a modern doctor's advice doesn't carry much weight.

King's child said...

I have three of her books and am hoping to get every single one that she has written!

Right now I have:

The Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable

The Complete Herbal handbook for Dog and Cat

and, Common Herbs for Natural Health.

I absolutely LOVE them!


David said...


Snort. huh? what?

Oh yeah, raw milk is horrible.

Just kidding,
interesting post.

~Molly~ said...

We LOVE raw milk here! Oh so good for you and my husband, who is lactose intolerant, can drink it with NO problems at all!


April said...

Emily, good info on milk. Juliette De Bairacli Levi's book 'Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable' is one of my favorite references. has it for a good price.