Earlier this year, pro-raw milk enthusiasts organized a rally at Capitol Hill in favor of legalizing raw milk for consumption and interstate sale in all 50 states. To make their point, they pulled an Erin Brockovich by milking a cow and drinking the milk, right there on Capital Hill, in front of an estimated crowd of 400 supporters.
Raw milk, which is unpasteurized, is banned in 11 states, with straight-from-the-udder interstate sales illegal since 1987. So what's the big deal? It curdles down to two points of view:
- Government agencies, specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Federal Department of Agriculture, warn that pathogens found in raw milk can cause disease. The pathogens of which they speak are salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, coxiella burnetii and listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious infection and possible death.
- Advocates of raw milk claim that the pasteurization process (the process in which milk is heated to 161 degrees F. for 15 seconds) not only kills these pathogens, but also kills beneficial bacteria and nutrients, wiping out raw milk's documented ability to lower rates of asthma, allergies and diminishes its immune-boosting properties.
Being in the food industry, I have a behind-the-scenes look into food safety, and unfortunately it can be lax. Whether it's at a restaurant or a food manufacturing plant, there is always someone on the line that isn't as vigilant as you are in the fight against foodborne pathogens, thus opening the door for possible contamination.
It's a big responsibility and burden, from farm to table, to keep that milk fresh and safe. Yet other countries do it successfully. All of Europe is free and clear to sell and consume raw milk, with the option to add restrictions as each country sees fit. France, for example, has no restrictions, while England allows only registered producers to sell to consumers.
Sound familiar? It should. We have the same rule here in the United States. While our government shines its warning beacon, they allow each state to decide whether or not they want to sell raw milk, and how it is sold. But raw milk cheerleaders want to be able to sell the stuff across state lines.
The interstate raw milk debate opens an ignored topic in this food fight: buying local. The point of raw milk is to have the best tasting, most nutritious, freshest milk possible. Unless you live in Rhode Island, it can take the better part of a day to cut across state lines. And by the time the milk is bottled, packed, trucked, unloaded and restocked, it's been about three days. Is that three days of bacteria multiplying? You can view a list of states authorized to sell raw milk at www.NaturalMilk.com.
Personally, I'm on the fence. The thought of experiencing death by E. coli far outweighs the freedom of raw milk being trucked across the country. What's your opinion? Are you an advocate of raw milk and trucking it across state lines?