Monday, October 7, 2013

Online Comments Can Be Dangerous For Your Health

I was reading about the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) today, which is basically proposing to put more regulations on  farming. For some reason, the implications to raw milk producers caught my eye and sent me into research mode.

When something catches my eye, I have to research it instantly and extensively. Good for me, not always so good for those closest to me who must learn everything I learn.

I should go on Jeopardy. Then again...maybe not!

I had never really thought about raw milk consumption. I mean, yea, Cody tells me all the time that nothing tastes better than milk right out of the bulk tank, but I didn't grow up milking dairy cows. I will make this disclaimer now, I am not a dairy farmer. In fact, I think dairy cows were mentioned in passing a total of 5 times throughout my Animal Science program. But that's because I went to the University of Wyoming...which caters to beef cattle and sheep producers.

I wanted to see why people were so desperate to consume raw milk. Then I made the mistake choice to read the comments on a pro-raw milk page. I really don't know why I read comment sections. I inevitably end up shaking my head. Often I end up fuming mad.

"Properly handled milk from healthy, grass-fed animals is not full of stuff that shouldn't be there..."

Well what should be in milk? What shouldn't be in milk? What constitutes properly handled? Why is grass-fed always touted as the save-all, cure-all for making everything healthier? And since when are cows not grass-fed? Especially dairy cows? Have you ever seen how filthy nasty cows get? Do you know what lives in the soil??

OK, I will stop the questions there. I think you get my point. And where I am headed. After this comment I HAD to find out more.

There seems to be a big split between Pro-Raw Milk folks and Anti-Raw Milk folks. I'm not telling you to choose either way, just wanted to lay out some facts. And if you really wanna know how things are done, talk to any of the many dairy farmers who are on social media (Dairy Carrie, Gilmer Dairy, and so many more that are either listed on my blog page or easily found on Facebook).

The first thing to understand is Pasteurization. This is the process of heating milk up to destroy potentially dangerous microorganisms (similar to cooking meat properly). There are different types of pasteurization, the two most common for milk being heating milk up to 161F for 15 seconds or 145F for 30 minutes. Campylobacter, E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria are the main pathogens that are tested for in milk (along with a host of other organisms).

It turns out that Pro-Raw Milkers believe in real milk (pasteurized milk doesn't come from real animals?), that comes from cows that eat cow food (does that include nails? cuz cows eat those all the time if they find them), creates greater disease resistance in consumers, cures asthma and allergies, automatically fights pathogens introduced into milk, is more nutritious and easier to digest than pasteurized milk.

According to the FDA, CDC, and Real Raw Milk Facts (put together by veterinarians, foodborne illness experts, nutritionists, industry/government/academics) pasteurization kills dangerous bacteria, doesn't reduce nutritional value of milk and doesn't make milk harder to digest.

All milk contains lactose, no matter whether it is heated or not heated. Realistically most adult animals are lactose intolerance, so lactose intolerance in humans shouldn't come as a surprise. It's been shown that heating the milk does destroy some enzymes but that these aren't essential to human diets. It should also be noted that raw milk doesn't magically get rid of bacteria (the best way to do this is by pasteurization). There has also been no proof that drinking raw milk cures allergies and asthma.

Milk is regularly tested for bacteria and antibiotics. Read these posts (1, 2) by Dairy Carrie, she talks about  the milk tank being tested when it is picked up by the milk truck, and then tested again when it reaches the plant (not meeting standards results in milk being dumped and profit lost).

All responsible dairy farmers keep a close eye on the quality of their milk. Personally I like having that extra measure available to kill bacteria I could be drinking (I think I come into contact with enough bacteria simply by existing and working with animals).

My point is you are free to choose raw milk or pasteurized milk! Just know the facts before you try and tell me that milk from healthy, grass-fed animals is not full of things that shouldn't be there...because animals always have bacteria and those bacteria can be dangerous. And animals have a nasty habit of eating whatever they can...even if it includes hardware or grass that a possum pooped on.

On a final note, I found it kind of humorous that people are bootlegging raw milk. Or drinking "Pet Food"...which is what raw milk has to be labeled as in some states.

This was by no means a comprehensive post...and I'm not a dairy farmer. But I have complete faith in our dairy farmers :) so make whatever choice is best for you and your family! Just remember to research before making food choices!


  1. Love this post, Mandy! You nailed it. Although I would tend to agree with Cody... nothing tastes better than milk fresh out of the udder. BUT at the same time I am so grateful that we are not in 1895 anymore and that I can drink milk form the store with the almost absolute certainty that I will not get cholera! Yay for pasteurization!

    1. Thanks Louise :) I will have to try milk straight out of the source at some point but I am extremely thankful for pasteurization (along with many other advancements) as well!