The Debate Over Raw Dairy Milk

Wisconsin event offers information on raw dairy milk to producers and consumers.

| July/August 2010

Got Milk?

The raw milk debate rages on throughout rural America. Freeman

One side urges freedom of choice. The other side argues that health is the top concern. And the debate over raw milk continues.

Nearly 300 people from around the world recently attended the Second Annual International Raw Milk Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin. The event was organized by the Farm to Consumer Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing education about food issues. The foundation is the primary source of income for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which states as its mission, “Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms, and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods.”

The first symposium was held in Toronto to facilitate an international discussion regarding raw milk. In the year that followed, a flurry of activity occurred for both producers and consumers, including a victory by Canadian raw milk producer Michael Schmidt after a long and costly court battle, as well as a coordinated crackdown on raw milk producers in Wisconsin.

Raw milk advocates say the main issue concerning the product is freedom of choice. They cite claims that raw milk has helped people with health concerns such as asthma and immune issues, and that pasteurizing milk not only destroys harmful bacteria, it destroys good enzymes and proteins in the milk. Many supporters line up on the side of people knowing where their food comes from, and they advocate that consumers meet the dairy farmer and inspect a local farm’s facilities on a regular basis.

On the opposite side of the argument are government health officials who say pasteurized milk (milk that has been heated to up to 161°F for up to 20 seconds) is the only safe product for consumers, particularly the young, elderly or those with weakened immune systems. Citing several health outbreaks attributed to raw milk, officials say their one and only concern is the safety of the public. Officials at the Food and Drug Administration say consumption of unpasteurized milk caused at least 187 hospitalizations, 1,614 illnesses and two deaths from 1998 to 2008.

This year, the symposium focused on the health benefits of raw milk, and how this issue fits into the larger issue of consumer rights concerning food. The event took place even as debate continues regarding the legalities of selling and the safety of consuming raw milk. In Wisconsin, as this issue went to press, a recently forwarded bill – allowing limited sales of unpasteurized milk directly off the farm – had been vetoed by the governor.

t brandt
1/28/2012 7:00:02 PM

Feeodm is the right to do anything The Law allows. Every time they issue a law or regulation, they subtract from our freedom. The first job of any bureaucrat is to ensure his own job and the excuse The Nannycrats use is usually that they are "protecting us." The second job of the bureaucrarts is to make it easy for the lawyers to file suits.: more regs means more suits...With freedom comes responsibility. Yes, the longer raw milk (or precessed) milk is kept, the higher the bacterial counts, and thus, health risks can accrue. But we should be able to make our own decisions about accepting risk vs gaining benefit. Citizens should remember this the next time they enter the voting booth. Personally, I'm getting very tired of sacrificing freedom to the lawyers & bureaucrats.

alyce ortuzar
1/28/2012 1:11:18 PM

What your article does not understand is the need for consumers to decide for themselves, based on their research, what is safe. Those government agencies that claim raw milk is unsafe do not have the evidence to support their claims. There is ample evidence to show that what these agencies tell the public is safe is in fact dangerous. The more adulterated, the more processes, the more money for corporate industries; the foods that are not processed reap the most money for the ecological farmers. Conventional animal products are unsafe to eat and are full of synthetic, endocrine-disruptinh hormones such as bovine growth hormone; antibiotics because the conditions of the confined animal feeding operations are unsanitary and inhumane. In addition, pesticides such as atrazine used on crops is an endocrine-disruptor scientifically linked to disfigured frogs and fish. We can only guess what these toxic chemicals paraded as food are doing to people. No government agency deserves credibility. Unfortunat3ely, your article leaves out these critically important facts.

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