Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.
Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.
These harmful bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk, or eats foods made from raw milk. However, the bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, and children. In fact, the CDC analysis found that foodborne illness from raw milk especially affected children and teenagers.
“Pasteurized Milk” Explained
Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. First developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis.
Research shows no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk contains low levels of the type of nonpathogenic bacteria that can cause food spoilage, so storing your pasteurized milk in the refrigerator is still important.
Raw Milk & Pasteurization: Debunking Milk Myths
While pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-rich milk and cheese for over 120 years, some people continue to believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative.
Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:
Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time, particularly after it has been opened.
Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
Pasteurization DOES save lives.
Raw Milk and Serious Illness
Symptoms and Advice
Symptoms of foodborne illness include:
Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
Flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache
While most healthy people will recover from an illness caused by harmful bacteria in raw milk – or in foods made with raw milk – within a short period of time, some can develop symptoms that are chronic, severe, or even life-threatening.
If you or someone you know becomes ill after consuming raw milk or products made from raw milk – or, if you are pregnant and think you could have consumed contaminated raw milk or cheese – see a doctor or healthcare provider immediately.
The Dangers of Listeria and Pregnancy
Pregnant women run a serious risk of becoming ill from the bacteria Listeria which can cause miscarriage, fetal death or illness or death of a newborn. If you are pregnant, consuming raw milk – or foods made from raw milk, such as Mexican-style cheese like Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco – can harm your baby even if you don’t feel sick.
Protect Your Family with Wise Food Choices
Most milk and milk products sold commercially in the United States contain pasteurized milk or cream, or the products have been produced in a manner that kills any dangerous bacteria that may be present. But unpasteurized milk and products made from unpasteurized milk are sold and may be harmful to your health. To avoid getting sick from the dangerous bacteria found in raw milk, you should choose your milk and milk products carefully. Consider these guidelines:/p>
Okay to Eat
Pasteurized milk or cream
Hard cheeses such as cheddar, and extra hard grating cheeses such as Parmesan
Soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco made from pasteurized milk
Cream, cottage, and Ricotta cheese made from pasteurized milk
Yogurt made from pasteurized milk
Pudding made from pasteurized milk
Ice cream or frozen yogurt made from pasteurized milk
Unsafe to Eat
Unpasteurized milk or cream
Soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco made from unpasteurized milk
Yogurt made from unpasteurized milk
Pudding made from unpasteurized milk
Ice cream or frozen yogurt made from unpasteurized milk
When in Doubt – Ask!
Taking a few moments to make sure milk is pasteurized – or that a product isn’t made from raw milk – can protect you or your loved ones from serious illness.
Read the label. Safe milk will have the word “pasteurized” on the label. If the word “pasteurized” does not appear on a product’s label, it may contain raw milk.
Don’t hesitate to ask your grocer or store clerk whether milk or cream has been pasteurized, especially milk or milk products sold in refrigerated cases at grocery or health food stores.
Don’t buy milk or milk products at farm stands or farmers’ markets unless you can confirm that it has been pasteurized.
Is Your Homemade Ice Cream Safe?
Each year, homemade ice cream causes serious outbreaks of infection from Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Raw or undercooked eggs. If you choose to make ice cream at home, use a pasteurized egg product, egg substitute, or pasteurized shell eggs in place of the raw eggs in your favorite recipe. There are also numerous egg-free ice cream recipes available.
Last year, ice cream from Blue Bell Creamery sickened 10 people with listeria; three died as a result. The price for causing three deaths? A mere $175,000 fine
Use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers on corn for cow feed on Vermont dairy farms nearly doubled between 2002 and 2012. These chemicals pose a threat to the environment, water supplies and human health
Up to 80 percent of herbicides used on Vermont dairy farms are atrazine-based — a chemical associated with estrogen overproduction, the feminizing of males, reproductive problems, several cancers and birth defects
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve written extensively about the differences between raw grass-fed milk and dairy from cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), explaining the many health and environmental benefits of the former and the risks associated with the latter.
Contrary to popular belief, pasteurized CAFO milk is NOT safer than raw milk from a healthy, grass-fed cow raised according to organic standards. Data shows that illnesses linked to raw milk are minimal, and far lower than those from pasteurized CAFO milk.
The reason for this has to do with the abnormal diet fed to CAFO cows. Grass is a cow’s natural food. Corn (nearly always GMO) and other grains, which are routinely fed to CAFO livestock, are not.
When cows eat grains, their body composition is altered and so is their milk, resulting in an inferior nutritional profile. Pasteurization also destroys many valuable nutrients — many of which have notable benefits for your digestion and immune function.1
Interestingly, cows, like humans, fed a high-grain diet will die prematurely. Many times a grain-fed cow’s life expectancy will be decreased by more than 50 percent. This is not typically an issue however, as the animals are sacrificed long before that time.
Pasteurized CAFO Dairy Far More Likely to Cause Disease Than Raw Milk
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) frequently cites raw milk as a leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks and deaths. However, if you look at the actual data, you will not find ANY deaths linked to raw milk in the U.S.
Meanwhile, just last year, ice cream from Blue Bell Creamery — the third-largest ice cream maker in the U.S. — sickened 10 people with listeria; three died as a result. The price for causing three deaths? A mere $175,000 fine.3
Raw dairy farmers have been put out of business for mere suspicion of contamination. Even in the absence of a complaint of contamination, farmers and consumers are often harassed over the buying and selling of raw milk.
Such is the case in Harris County, Texas, where the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and raw milk consumers claim they’re being threatened by public health officials even though they’re not doing anything illegal. As reported by YourHoustonNews.com:4
“Raids have taken place at raw milk drop points to stop consumers from picking up raw milk. The raw milk consumers and producers are in fear of being shut down or fined by authorities.
‘Generally, when the health department has a concern about a business, they will talk to that business and they will go through the concerns.
What’s been happening is that they have been showing up in Katy with the sheriff’s deputies and in Austin they showed up with the police,’ said Judith McGeary, executive director of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. ‘This isn’t how food inspections are handled typically. It is very out of line.'”
Clearly, the attack on raw milk is aimed at controlling the dairy industry, NOT to save you from yourself, should you be convinced that raw milk is a healthy food and choose to go out of your way to obtain and drink it!
Ongoing Listeria Contamination Found at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
In 2013, Chobani Greek yogurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.5 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.
Listeria bacteria was also recently found in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ Columbus, Ohio, facility, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning letter to the company.
The same strain of listeria was found in samples collected in April 2015, suggesting the company is struggling with an ongoing contamination problem.6
As a rule, CAFOs are hotbeds for disease-causing bacteria that can easily end up in the final product, be it milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream. Pasteurization is thought to kill off all of these bacteria, but reality tells a different story. Part of the problem is the sheer volume of food being processed.
All you need is for one portion of the processing plant to be contaminated in order for massive amounts of food to be contaminated — and it doesn’t matter if it’s been pasteurized or not. In the case of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, the source of the 2015 contamination was traced to a contaminated spout on one of its machines.
CAFOs also promote antibiotic-resistant disease that kills an estimated 23,000 Americans each year, courtesy of the routine use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy enough while crammed together in unsanitary conditions.
But there’s yet another major difference between organic grass-fed dairy farming and CAFOs, and it has to do with the amount of pesticides used on cattle feed. Not only does it contribute to environmental devastation, but the end product may also contain herbicide residues that could affect your health.
Use of Agricultural Chemicals Has Skyrocketed
Pesticide-producing giants like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta promised their genetically engineered (GE) seeds (also referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMO) would allow farmers to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals used on their crops, leading to a greener, more environmentally-friendly agriculture.
The idea that chemical technology companies would act against their own self-interests by selling seeds requiring less of the chemicals that are the backbone of their profit centers should have been identified as a lie from the start, but many bought the sales pitch hook, line and sinker.
Today, with data showing the truth in black and white, it is high time everyone realizes that GE crops DRIVE the ever-increasing use of toxic chemicals on our food supply, making not only our food but also our soil and water more toxic — a fact that, ultimately, has serious ramifications for human health and all other life on Earth.
According to a recent report by the organic advocacy group Regeneration Vermont, use of herbicides and synthetic fertilizers on Vermont dairy farms nearly DOUBLED between 2002 and 2012.7
In 2002, Vermont farmers used 1.54 pounds of herbicide per acre. In 2012, they used an average of 3.01 pounds per acre.
Atrazine Dominates on Vermont Dairy Farms
One of the most commonly used weed killers on Vermont dairy farms is Syngenta’s Lumax, the active ingredients of which are atrazine and metolachlor.
According to the report, as much as 80 percent of all the herbicides used in the state are atrazine-based. I recently wrote about the serious health hazards associated with atrazine, which include:
Estrogen overproduction, which can contribute to the feminizing of males, reproductive problems and estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer
Ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia and thyroid cancer
Birth defects, including abdominal defects such as gastroschisis, in which the baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body
Atrazine also causes serious reproductive harm to amphibians, fish, birds and mammals, and has been shown to depress immune function in wildlife and laboratory rodents.
Herbicides May Pose Serious Threat to Our Children
While atrazine is the most commonly found herbicide contaminant in the U.S. water supply, many other weed killers are also associated with water contamination and pose very similar health risks. As reported by VTdigger.org:8
“Seven of the active ingredients in use — atrazine, simazine, acetachlor, alachlor, metolachlor, pendimethalin and glyphsate — have been linked to birth defects, developmental defects and contaminated drinking water … Five of the chemicals have been banned by the European Union.”
On June 6, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new risk assessment for atrazine,9 concluding the herbicide cannot be used safely even at lower concentrations.10 It is currently up for public comment and is not expected to be finalized until 2017, but it may well lead to tighter regulatory limits and possibly even an eventual ban, based on the level of concern found.
The report, “Vermont’s GMO Legacy: Pesticides, Polluted Water and Climate Destruction,”11,12 notes that the use of nitrogen fertilizer in Vermont has nearly doubled as well, rising from 8.9 million pounds in 2002 to 16.5 million pounds in 2012, applied to a total of about 92,000 acres of farmland.
Impact of GE-Fed Dairy Cows
While there are many problems with CAFOs, the use of GE feed makes everything worse. As noted by Will Allen, one of the founders of Regeneration Vermont and author of the report, “There is no reason to use GMO corn.” Indeed, dairy farmers could opt for conventional corn or, even better, organic.
The cows would still suffer health problems since corn is not a natural food for them, but at least this would reduce (or eliminate in the case of organic corn) the amount of toxic herbicides contaminating the environment and ending up in the milk supply. Allen points out that the dramatic increase in herbicides, combined with GE seeds that are pre-treated with pesticides against pests that aren’t even a problem, is really irresponsible.
“Allen also criticizes what he describes as the state’s hypocritical stance on GMO labeling,” VTdigger.org writes.13 “While state politicians have defended Vermont’s GMO food labeling law against attacks … they have done little to effect policy that would help dairy farmers shift to organic methods …14
Vermont’s GMO labeling law has left a false impression that it ‘solved’ the GMO problem in the state. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth,’ Allen writes. ‘While we are forcing the labeling of Cheetos and Spaghettios, the state turns a blind eye to GMO corn used to feed cows that produce milk for Agri-Mark and Ben & Jerry’s. GMOs are about more than a (consumer’s) right to know. It’s also about the GMO impact on the environment and the monopolization of the food supply.”
Dairy Advertising Versus Reality
A recent commentary written by Allen and Regeneration Vermont co-founders Michael Colby and Kate Duesterberg focuses on the false front the CAFO dairy industry presents to the public:15
“The great divide between the well-marketed image of Vermont dairy farming and its stark and toxic realities is becoming harder and harder to ignore. The marketing shows healthy cows grazing on lush pastures. But the reality is cows on concrete, being fed a diet of GMO-corn and the toxic residues from the hundreds of thousands of pounds of herbicides sprayed annually on the corn and hay fields …
Regeneration Vermont is in the process of trying to wake up consumers, the corporate dairy suppliers and the regulators that these dangerous toxins are probably in our milk, ice cream, cheese, butter and yogurt, and are definitely in our drinking and recreational waters. We believe that, in order to truly protect the Vermont brand by putting some reality behind it, an immediate transition to regenerative organic dairying needs to be fast-tracked.”
More than 200 (about 20 percent) of the dairy farms in Vermont have already made the transition to organic farming. This is a good start, but hundreds more need to follow suit. Also, these problems are hardly restricted to Vermont. Dairy farms across the U.S. are contributing to the destruction of our environment and human health.
Organic Farming Pays
Nationwide there are about 2,200 organic dairy farms, most of which have fewer than 200 cows. The “get big or get out” mentality has reduced the number of dairy farms in the U.S. by 60 percent over the past two decades.16 Despite that decline, the total milk production has increased by one-third — a feat attributed to CAFOs, which often house more than 15,000 cows and often use drugs to promote abnormal increases in milk production.
At that scale, you simply cannot raise cows according to organic, grass-fed standards. However, family dairy farms that decide to go organic often end up profiting. As reported by Epoch Times:17
“The pricing of organic milk is separate from the conventional milk market … [O]rganic prices have so far offered much greater stability … Organic Valley is the largest organic dairy cooperative in the country by far, with 1,800 family farm members. The price Organic Valley farmers earn includes a good profit …
The Buck family [in Goodhue, Minnesota] used to farm conventionally, but made the transition to organic in order to avoid spraying chemicals on the farm … [Ruth Buck] explained that the farm has the right number of cows (120) for the land (100 acres). ‘Everything balances out, and you don’t need to push the cows,’ she said.”
According to Darin Von Ruden, an organic dairy farmer and president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, organic dairy farmers typically have a profit margin of 5 to 10 percent when first starting out. Once established, they can make anywhere from 15 to 20 percent profit.
This is in stark contrast to conventional farms, which typically have a profit margin of 1 or 2 percent; a particularly good year might yield a 7 to 8 percent profit margin. The reason CAFOs are still so profitable is their sheer scale. But as just discussed, all this cheap milk comes at a terrible price.
Organic Watchdog Group Calls for Organic Merger Block
Many well-known organic brands are actually owned by multinational junk food purveyors — many of which have lobbied to prevent GMO labeling and otherwise fought against cleaner, safer food systems. Most recently, the French dairy company Groupe Danone announced it may acquire WhiteWave Foods at a price tag of about $10 billion.
If this deal goes through, Danone-owned Stonyfield would merge with the Wallaby yogurt brand. Danone would also end up controlling Horizon, the largest organic milk brand in the U.S. As noted by The Cornucopia Institute,18 this merger is a cause for great concern — so much so, Cornucopia is calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to block the merger.
There’s already little competition in the organic dairy market, and this merger could easily result in price fixing and other problems associated with monopolization. As noted by Cornucopia:19
“Horizon already procures a large percentage of their milk from industrial-scale dairies managing thousands of cows each. The Stonyfield brand has always depended on family-scale farmers. That could all change after the merger.
You need to let the DOJ and the FTC know that they must scrutinize the Danone-WhiteWave acquisition closely for anti-competitive concerns in the organic dairy market and act to protect consumers, independent businesses and farmers alike from monopoly control of the market.”
Can Raw Milk Help Prevent Asthma?
As a result of the animals’ diet and standard of living (being outdoors, exposed to natural sunlight, free to roam at will without the stressors of confinement and crowding etc.), high-quality raw milk has many health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, grass-fed raw milk contains:
Healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal (GI) tract
More than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Beneficial raw fats, amino acids and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron), the absorption of which is enhanced by live lactobacilli
Research has shown raw milk exposure in early childhood increases the number of regulatory T-cells (Treg cells; immunosuppressive cells that modulate your immune system), resulting in a lower risk for asthma and allergies. According to the authors:20
“Farm milk exposure was associated with increased Treg cell numbers on stimulation in 4.5-year-old children and might induce a regulatory phenotype early in life, potentially contributing to a protective effect for the development of childhood allergic diseases.”
In another study,21 published last year, nearly 1,000 infants from rural areas in Austria, Finland, France, Germany and Switzerland were followed for the first year of life. Their consumption of different types of cow’s milk was analyzed, along with rates of common respiratory infections. Children who drank raw milk had a 30 percent lower risk of respiratory infections and fever compared to those who did not drink raw milk.
Milk that was boiled at the farm had a diminished protective effect, and milk that was ultra-pasteurized, which is heated to about 135 degrees Celsius (275 degrees Fahrenheit) for a few seconds, showed no protective effect, likely because the protective compounds are killed or otherwise damaged by the heat.
Kids who drank fresh, raw milk also had significantly lower incidence of head colds and middle-ear inflammation compared to those who drank ultra-pasteurized milk. The researchers concluded that the public health impact of minimally processed raw milk might be “enormous, given the high prevalence of respiratory infections in the first year of life and the associated direct and indirect costs.”
Where to Find Raw Milk and Healthy Yogurt
Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting high-quality milk. If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund22 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.23 California residents can find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
Yogurt is another dairy product that can do more harm than good if you stray from raw grass-fed dairy as the base. To identify the best commercial yogurts available, refer to The Cornucopia Institute’s Yogurt Report and score card. Their investigation found many products being sold as yogurt do not even meet the standards for real yogurt!
Top-rated yogurts are generally VAT pasteurized at relatively low temperatures and are made from raw milk rather than previously pasteurized milk. While not as advantageous as making yogurt from raw milk in your own home, it’s certainly better than most commercial yogurt. As a general rule, you’ll want to seek out organic yogurt made from 100 percent grass-fed milk. Also make sure it’s made from whole (full fat) milk, not low-fat or skim.
An entire section of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website is devoted to warning Americans about the “dangers” of raw milk. There it states that more than 1,500 people in the US became sick from raw milk from 1993 to 2006.1
This is just over 115 people per year, on average… in a country were 9 million people get sick from foodborne illness annually.2 Is it possible to get sick from drinking raw milk?
Yes! But it’s also possible to get sick from eating a salad, a cheeseburger or a bowl of fruit. In fact, you’re far more likely to be infected with a foodborne illness when eating any number of foods other than high-quality raw milk.
A new report produced by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), a partnership of the US Department of Agriculture, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed which foods are most likely to make you sick… and the answers might surprise you.3
Picking Out Food at Your Supermarket Is Like Playing Russian Roulette
Of the 9 million people who get sick from eating food each year, 55,000 are hospitalized and 1,000 will die.4 These are the estimates from IFSAC, which are actually far lower than those given by the CDC in 2011.
According to those estimates, the problem is far worse with 48 million people being sickened by foodborne diseases each year, including 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Whichever figure is correct, suffice it to say that it’s a lot.5 According to the IFSAC report, certain foods cause so many illnesses each year that shopping at your supermarket is like playing a game of Russian roulette.
Will you pick the package of chicken breasts with salmonella in it? Will the ground beef for your hamburger patties contain the particularly deadly E. coli O157? Will your bagged salad be covered in any number of disease-causing pathogens?
Government agencies have painted the picture that if you go to a farm and purchase high-quality farm-fresh milk (i.e. raw milk), you’re walking away with a food that is crawling in dangerous bacteria. The way they make it sound you’d think you could get sick just by looking at it. But I’d take my chances on the farm any day.
The fact is, the majority of foods that are making people sick are coming not from small organic farms selling raw-milk products… they’re coming from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). And if you shop at a typical supermarket, where do you think most of the food comes from?
The very same CAFOs producing the most contaminated foods… the companies behind the so-called “ag-gag” laws trying to keep you from seeing what’s going on behind their closed doors.
Their food might not kill you… but then again it might. Or, if you pick the “wrong” package of chicken, for example, you might simply end up spending a few days in the hospital or, if you’re “lucky,” just 24 hours or so tied to your porcelain throne.
Which Foods Are Most Likely to Make You Sick?
The IFSAC report used data from nearly 1,000 outbreaks between 1998 and 2012. They were looking for which foods were most responsible for illnesses caused by four types of foodborne bacteria: salmonella, E. coli O157, listeria, and campylobacter. These four pathogens alone cause nearly 2 million cases of foodborne illness each year in the US.6 Here’s what the data revealed:
You’ll notice a definite problem with meat and eggs also made the list. Ninety percent of all chicken meat and eggs sold in the US come from CAFOs, and overall, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists,
“Although they comprise only about 5 percent of all U.S. animal operations, CAFOs now produce more than 50 percent of our food animals.”7
That was in 2008, and the number of CAFOs has only risen since then. You’ll also notice vegetables as a serious food of concern. Why? Vegetables make us sick not because of plant diseases… but because of the same CAFOs that are producing contaminated meat and eggs.
Dr. Michael Greger, a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and the Tufts University School of Medicine, told the Huffington Post:8
“People don’t get plant diseases; they get animal diseases. The problem is that because of the number of animals raised today, a billion tons of manure are produced every year in the United States–the weight of 10,000 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
Dairy cow and pig factories often dump millions of gallons of putrefying waste into massive open-air cesspits, which can leak and contaminate water used to irrigate our crops. That’s how a deadly fecal pathogen like E. coli O157:H7 can end up contaminating our spinach.”
What About the Dairy on the List?
The report states that the large number of campylobacter outbreaks associated with dairy were “largely, although not entirely, due to outbreaks associated with raw fluid milk or cheese produced form raw milk (e.g., unpasteurized queso fresco).”
The report went on to acknowledge their limitations, noting that their results reflect surveillance biases and uncertainties due to sparse data.
They particularly urged caution in interpreting their findings for campylobacter in dairy (along with listeria in fruit). Past research has found, for instance, that the food and food-contaminant combination that causes the most economic damage is campylobacter in chicken.
In addition, it’s unclear what sources of unpasteurized dairy accounted for the outbreaks. For instance, Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy and an internationally recognized expert in raw milk production and safety, investigated the two deaths in California that the CDC said were linked to raw milk. He noted:9
“The data I received back from the CDC showed that in fact there had been no death from raw milk at all. The two deaths had been from illegal Mexican bath tub cheese and not raw milk from any place in America. Why does the CDC persist in publishing this erroneous information? …The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized milk at Whittier farms in 2007, not from raw milk.”
It’s unfair that the government continues to target peaceful raw milk farmers producing a safe, healthy food for people who want it. Yet, outrageously, aggressive armed raids by federal agents against Amish raw milk farmers are not uncommon. Raw milk isn’t the only food on the chopping block, either. Raw-milk cheeses and heritage-breed pigs are also being targeted, and there’s no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. Meanwhile, other foods are killing and sickening millions. Where are the warnings against eating CAFO chicken, beef and eggs, for starters?
Drug Residues in Your Milk and Meat
There are other reasons to reconsider CAFO food aside from foodborne illness, including drug residues. Antibiotics and other drugs are commonly given to dairy cows and other livestock. Milk is tested for up to six commonly used drugs, such as penicillin, and if excess levels are found the milk cannot be sold. However, not all drugs given to animals are tested for, and there has been concern that illegal drugs might be showing up in milk too. In 2012, the FDA conducted a survey to determine whether illegal drugs were finding their way into the US milk supply. The study was only green-lighted after a more than year-long “negotiation” into its terms with the dairy industry and state governments.
Why the FDA, which is charged with protecting the public health, would need to negotiate study terms with an industry it is supposed to police is only one murky aspect to this story… Even more unsettling is the fact that in 2015, years after the study’s completion, the FDA has yet to release its findings. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the survey data, but the FDA denied it. What are they hiding? CSPI appealed and is currently waiting for the FDA’s response. So far, they have only stated that the agency is “unable to provide a specific release date at this time but is actively working to publish the report…”10
For the record, CSPI has reason to be suspect of drugs in milk. In 2011, they reviewed drug-testing reports at slaughter plants and found that dairy farms accounted for 67 percent of drug-residue violations. In all, 17 different drugs were found in more than 735 drug-positive tissue samples. This included drugs that are banned for use in cattle, such as the antibiotic gentamicin.11 When illegal drug residues are found in animals coming from dairy farms, it’s an indication that drugs may be being improperly used elsewhere on the farm, and possibly accumulating in your milk as well.
The FDA Will Target Raw Milk… But Not Rampant Overuse of Antibiotics in Animal Feed
While the FDA continues to waste resources on “warning” the public about a healthy food like raw milk, they knew for more than 12 years that routine use of antibiotics in livestock is harmful to human health, yet took no meaningful action. Nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to livestock in the US every year for purposes other than treating disease, such as making the animals grow bigger faster. The drug-resistant bacteria that contaminate your meat may pass on their resistant genes to other bacteria in your body, making you more likely to become sick.
Drug-resistant bacteria also accumulate in manure that is spread on fields and enters waterways, allowing the drug-resistant bacteria to spread far and wide and ultimately back up the food chain to us. Meanwhile, antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million Americans every year, causing at least 23,000 deaths. Even more die from complications related to the infections, and the numbers are steadily growing. You can see how easily antibiotic resistance spreads, via the food you eat and community contact, in the CDC’s infographic below.
Source: CDC.gov, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013
Europeans Enjoy Raw Milk from Vending Machines
To put matters even more into perspective, consider that some European nations sell raw milk in vending machines! And contrary to popular (American) belief, the bodies are NOT piling up as a result. As reported by Modern Farmer:12“Europe’s embrace of raw milk vending machines isn’t new. Such daring dispensers of unpasteurized dairy can be found in France, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and, as one map,13 shows, all over the place in Italy.”
The safety measures are remarkably simple. If the temperature of the milk rises above the regulated level, the machine will stop dispensing milk, and the farmer is notified via text message. The milk spout is sterilized by a UV light between each purchase. In the US, several states have outright banned the sale of raw milk for fear of contaminated milk despite the fact that, statistically, such fears are completely and udderly unfounded (pun intended). Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD also shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!14
It’s Legal to Consume Raw Fish… Why Not Raw Milk?
When the government gets involved in telling people what foods they can and can’t consume, it’s a slippery slope to oppression. Yet, so far, the FDA seems fairly focused on raw milk, thanks to a strong dairy lobby. Lobbying spending by the dairy industry doubled from 2003 to 2013, reaching $8 million the latter year.15 Meanwhile, other so-called raw “risky” foods, like sushi and undercooked eggs, are enjoyed by Americans each and every day, legally, I might add. And, even without government interference, there is great incentive for sushi restaurants and raw-milk producers alike to produce safe, high-quality products. As reported by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research:16
“…the market is already able to protect the public against another food that is often seen as potentially risky—raw fish. Currently, the federal government has no regulations concerning which fish can receive the designation of ‘sushi grade,’ meaning it is expected to be consumed raw. In other words, a gas station vendor could buy low-grade fish from the nearest waterfront and label it “sushi grade.” But people would be hesitant to purchase raw fish from a gas station that they do not trust. Further, a business will not stay open for long if it disappoints its customers, much less if it makes them seriously ill by selling tainted food.
Without being told by the government to do so, stores tend to reserve the best quality, cleanest fish for the label “sushi grade.” These sales operate without regulation and without sacrificing public health. Companies selling raw milk likewise regulate their own products in a manner that protects the health of their consumers. Ten states allow retail sales of all types of raw milk, and more allow on-farm sales. Despite warnings from the FDA, there is no massive public health crisis in the states that allow consumption of raw milk, compared to those that do not.
…Weighing the benefits of raw milk, and other foods such as lettuce and shellfish, against the risks is an individual choice that the government should stay out of. For some, drinking raw milk may not make sense. For others, the flavor and the health benefits might outweigh the associated risks, especially when purchasing raw milk from a trusted source—whether that be a family friend, a local farmers market, or a reputable retail store. Instead of creating and enforcing regulations which ban products when there are not substantial threats to the public, government agencies should leave people and the food that they choose to consume alone.”
Join the Fight for Food Freedom
The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of “safe food” on consumers, raw milk won’t be the only thing lost—all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered. The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
Support your local farmers: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
As with all foods, the source matters, and this is just as true with raw milk as any other food. If you’re interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources.
How to Minimize Your Risk of Foodborne Illness
Sometimes, food-borne illness may be inevitable, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk. This includes commonsense measures like washing your hands and sanitizing counters/cutting boards after handling potentially contaminated foods, rinsing fruits and vegetables before eating, and storing foods at the proper temperature. One important factor impacting whether your food is “safe” isn’t total storage time, but rather how much time it spends in the temperature “danger zone” (between 40-120 degrees F).17 You’ll want to avoid leaving your groceries in a hot car for too long, for instance, as this will generally promote food-borne illness.
It’s important to keep in mind that the potential for foodborne illness applies to ANY food, and where it comes from is probably the greatest indicator of whether it’s likely to be safe or contaminated. So ultimately, the key to making sure that any food you eat is safe is to get it from a high-quality source. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. When you get your produce from small farmers that raise their food in natural settings using clean water, as opposed to massive agribusiness conglomerations that use sewage sludge as fertilizer, there is very little risk in eating these foods raw. The same goes for meat, eggs, and raw dairy products, as well.
I also suggest browsing through my Sustainable Agriculture resource page to find farmer’s markets, family farms, and other sources of safe, high-quality food. Not only are these sources likely to raise food in more sanitary conditions than a CAFO, but there’s a better chance that it will also be locally grown. The closer you are to the source of your food, the fewer hands it has to pass through and the less time it will sit in storage — so the better, and likely safer, it will be for you and your family. Finally, along with the practical precautions mentioned above, lowering your chances of becoming ill from food poisoning also involves keeping your immune system healthy by following these five steps to boost your immune system health.
Story at-a-glance –
According to the FDA, just over 115 people per year, on average, get sick from raw milk… in a country were 9-48 million people get sick from foodborne illness annually
A new report ranks CAFO beef and vegetables (often contaminated by CAFO pollution) as top sources of foodborne illness
The government continues to waste resources targeting raw milk farmers producing a safe, healthy food while turning a blind eye on the other foods that are killing and sickening millions
However, a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has shown that consuming raw milk will not, in fact, be a death sentence . Researchers, doctors and other medical professionals from across Europe joined forces to investigate the effects of consuming raw milk, and revealed that raw milk isn’t just non-toxic, but also yields some impressive health benefits!
The investigatory project, playfully known as PASTURE, discovered that raw milk can help to prevent viruses, colds and respiratory infections from forming in children when compared to conventional, processed milk. For the study, researchers recruited a group of pregnant women who were in their third trimester. Approximately half of the women lived and worked on livestock farms in rural areas, primarily in central Europe. The researchers asked the women to detail their dietary and lifestyle habits, including their milk consumption. The information was then evaluated and compared.
In total, 983 children were included in the final data set, which is what revealed the truth about raw milk: its immune-boosting health effects are far superior to that of conventional pasteurized milk. The research indicated that raw milk functions a lot like breast milk, in that it imparts immunity to its consumers. Raw milk also helps to reduce C-reactive proteins, which are directly associated with inflammation.
Conversely, conventional milk may actually contribute to inflammation, due to the altered proteins that are created during processing. Essentially, raw milks helps to decrease inflammation, while processed milk creates more inflammation.
The study authors state, “The main finding of this analysis was an inverse association between consumption of unprocessed cow’s milk and rhinitis [cold or runny nose], RTI [respiratory tract infections], and otitis [ear infection].” They also went on to note that raw cow’s milk produced the greatest positive effect, while boiled farm milk produced a more modest benefit.
C-reactive proteins are thought to be one of the leading causes of disease, and raw milk helps to decrease their presence in the human body. Conversely, conventional milk does absolutely nothing to fight their presence. Raw milk consumption was also associated with a 30 percent decreased risk of respiratory infections and fevers, and could even help children to combat these ailments. Minimally processed milk, such as fresh milk boiled right at the farm, was also found to provide a modest benefit to children, though its effects were not nearly as pronounced as those seen in true raw milk.
One of the study’s lead authors, Dr. Ton Baars, a professor and senior scientist for milk quality and animal welfare at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Germany, states that their data provides new evidence of raw milk’s protective qualities, especially against diseases in young children.
Raw cheese has a richer and deeper flavor than cheese made from pasteurized milk because heat destroys the enzymes and good bacteria that add flavor to the cheese
Raw cheese has flavors derived from the pastureland that nourished the animals producing the milk, much like wine is said to draw its unique flavors from individual vineyards
The US government has been threatening to ban raw-milk products, including raw cheese, despite a lack of evidence showing them to be dangerous.
Based on their vehement warnings to the public, as well as their raids on small farms, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) want you to believe that raw milk is unsafe.
And if you listen to them, you would come away believing that raw milk is a filthy, disease-causing beverage that is virtually guaranteed to make you and your family sick…
Yet, this very same ingredient – raw milk – is used to make some of the world’s finest cheeses, from the Italian Parmigiano Reggiano to the famous French-made Camembert.
The traditional cheese-making process has been crafted over centuries in many cases, and is truly an art form, with each cheese carefully aged and ripened to develop a complex taste and texture that mass-produced cheeses cannot replicate – thanks, in large part, to their raw milk content.
Why Raw Milk Makes Cheese Better
Raw cheese has a richer and deeper flavor than cheese made from pasteurized milk because heat destroys the enzymes and good bacteria that add flavor to the cheese.
In fact, raw cheese has flavors derived from the pastureland that nourished the animals producing the milk, much like wine is said to draw its unique flavors from individual vineyards. AsThe Edmonton Journalrecently reported:1
“ …bacteria present in the raw milk creates a taste profile for cheese that cannot be replicated post-pasteurization.
‘It’s impossible to recreate what nature creates first,’ says [Bobby] Gregoire, part of a Slow Food campaign to educate the public about raw milk and its products. ‘If you pasteurize the cheese, you lose the link to the land. It’s impossible to have a terroir product if you pasteurize it.’”
Unfortunately, 90 percent of standard grocery store cheeses are made from the milk ofCAFO cows, which aregrain-fedcows. Raw-milk cheese is far more likely too come from grass-fed animals raised on pasture, rather than grain-fed or soy-fed animals confined to feedlot stalls. Raw grass-fed dairy products not only taste better, they are also nutritionally superior:
Cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows has the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio of 2:1. By contrast, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of grain-fed milk is heavily weighted on the side of omega-6 fats (25:1), which are already excessive in the standard American diet. Grass-fed dairy combats inflammation in your body, whereas grain-fed dairy contributes to it.
Grass-fed cheese contains about five times the beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) of grain-fed cheese.
Because raw cheese is notpasteurized, natural enzymes in the milk are preserved, increasing its nutritional punch.
Grass-fed cheese is considerably higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, D and E.
Organic grass-fed cheese is free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Are the FDA and Canada Going to Ban Raw-Milk Cheese?
For years, federal regulators have been threatening to ban raw milk products, including raw cheese, due to what they claim are increased safety risks. In Canada, where unpasteurized milk is legal to sell, an E. coli outbreak linked to one raw milk cheese has experts calling for tighter regulations.
But the E. coli source has yet to be firmly identified, meaning it could be from fresh herbs used in the cheeses, tubing at the factory where the cheese is made or any number of sources, i.e. not necessarily the raw milk.
“In light of such a tragedy, it’s easy to panic, and to view cheese made from unpasteurized milk — which is legal to sell in Canada — with a jaundiced eye. Ban it! Bring on irradiation! This sort of fear-based attitude is a mistake.
Food-borne pathogens exist. They are a fact of life — always have been, always will be. But to blame, or move to eliminate, an entire food culture, in existence for thousands of years, stimulating both the palate and the economy, would be an overreaction.”
Even a 2012 report from the FDA and Health Canada,3which claimed that there is a 50- to 160-fold increase in the risk of listeriosis from eating soft-ripened raw-milk cheese, compared with cheese made from pasteurized milk, appears to be greatly overblown. As one journalist reported:4
“The risk certainly sounds serious… until you read closely the full 189-page report and learn that the FDA-Health Canada conclusion about ‘a 50- to 160-fold increase in the risk’ is based entirely on estimates and mathematical predictions, rather than real-life data on illnesses from the soft raw milk cheeses.
Even more remarkable, the actual real-life data presented in the report of illnesses worldwide from listeriosis in soft cheese over a 23-year period between 1986 and 2008 shownot a single documented illnessin the U.S. from listeriosis due to tainted brie or camembert.”
Likewise, according to Grist,5between 1973 and 1999 there’s not a single report of illness from either raw or pasteurized cheeses. However, since the year 2000, illnesses have begun to appear from raw and pasteurized cheese alike. Most outbreaks have been found to result from post-production contamination and laxity in quality control, not lack of pasteurization.
The truth is that raw cheese is not inherently dangerous, provided high standards are followed in the cheese-making process. Hard cheeses like cheddar dry out as they age, making them relatively inhospitable to invading bacteria. TheFDA’s attackon raw cheese is not based on facts, but simply is an extension of their long-standing hostility toward raw milk in general.
Did You Know High-Quality Cheese Is Good for You?
Cheese is much maligned in America due to thesaturated fat/cholesterol myth. Does eating high-quality cheese lead to obesity and heart disease? This is actually amyththat stems from an outdated and seriously flawed hypothesis, perpetuated by decades of wildly successful marketing.
Numerous recent studies have confirmed saturated fat is NOT associated with obesity or heart disease and is actually associated with improved heart health. Most Americans today are consuminginadequatesaturated fat. In fact, the Greeks, French and Germans eat much more cheese than Americans but enjoy lower rates of hypertension and obesity.6
Of course, there is adifference between natural cheese and processed “cheese foods.” Natural cheese is a simplefermenteddairy product, made with nothing more than a few basic ingredients — milk, starter culture, salt and an enzyme called rennet. Processed cheese or “cheese food” is a different story. These products are typically pasteurized and otherwise adulterated with a variety of additives that detract from their nutritional value. When prepared traditionally, as most raw-milk cheeses are, cheese offers a wealth of good nutrition, including:
High-quality protein and amino acids
High-quality saturated fats and omega-3 fats
Vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamins A, D, B2 (riboflavin) and B12
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? And one that’s virtually impossible to answer, as everyone’s palate is unique when it comes to cheese. From a health standpoint, your best option is cheese made from the raw milk of pasture-raised cows, sheep and goats, as opposed to feedlot livestock fed grain and soy. My top picks are Gouda, Brie, and Edam cheese, as these aregood sources of vitamin K2, but you also can’t go wrong with high-quality cheddar, Swiss, Colby, Gruyere, and goat cheese.
Cheese is unique in that it offers a synergistic blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids, including the magic trio ofvitamin D3, vitamin K2 and calcium. This nutrient triad is vitally important for reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, so don’t be afraid to include high-quality cheese in your regular diet. Also, don’t be afraid of raw cheese (as long as it comes from a reputable cheesemaker), which beats ordinary cheese in both taste and nutrition.
In recent years, there’s been a crackdown on small dairies producing raw milk, designed as an obstacle to the growing legions of consumers demanding healthier and more flavorful milk. Raw milk has been deemed “unfit” for human consumption by the FDA and other government sting operations, and the public propagandized into fearing it. According to some fear-mongers, for example, raw milk causes rabies.
David Gumpert, author of popular blog The Complete Patient and forthcoming book Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights (Chelsea Green, Oct 2009), asks an important question: How much of the fear-mongering from the pro-pasteurization people is real, and how much is propaganda from Big Agribusiness? Gumpert says the anti-raw-milk campaign is just another governmental technique to sanitize the food supply—even in the face of ever-increasing rates of chronic disease like asthma, diabetes, and allergies.
Here are 10 things you should know about raw milk that the government won’t tell you:
1. Raw milk is healthier: Pasteurized milk is accused of causing everything from allergies to heart disease to cancer, but back in the day, these diseases were rare. In fact, clean raw milk from grass-fedcows is chock full of healthy amino acids and beneficial enzymes, and was used as a cure.
2. Raw milk does not make you sick: That is, if it is properly collected from cows fed good, clean grass. Grass-fed milk has natural antibiotic properties that help protect it from pathogenic bacteria. But it’s worth noting, if you’ve been using pasteurized dairy products, you might want to eat small amounts of yogurt or kefir for a week or so, for a dose of probiotics, just to be safe. I did, and it helped.
3. Not all raw milk is the same: The cow’s diet, how and where it’s raised, and how the milk is collected are all factors in the safety and quality of raw milk. Cows pastured on organic green grass produce milk with good health benefits. It’s good to know where your milk is coming from.
4. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks, and inspection are enough of a precaution, and pasteurization has become irrelevant.
5. Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
6. Calves fed pasteurized milk don’t do very well, and many die before maturity. Scary, considering the milk originally came from their mom.
7. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process called centrifugal clarification. Gross.
8. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. This means, pasteurization is used as a nifty way to wash away all forms of bad bacteria that are allowed to flourish freely before the process. Imagine that for a second.
9. Raw milk has more butterfat, which is rich in fatty acids that protect against disease and stimulate the immune system. Skim milk doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you, in other words.
10. Pasteurization laws favor large, industrialized dairy operations and push out small farmers. When farmers have the right to sell raw milk directly to their consumers, they can make a decent living even with a small number of cows. Support small farmers!