Concerns about raw milk? Get the real info on real milk! Blog Entry Sept 7th 2014
Many people have questions on the safety and health benefits of raw dairy products in their homes for themselves and their family. Before you make the decision to consume raw dairy products, let us briefly examine the history of raw dairy consumption as well as the effects of pasteurization on dairy products.
Raw dairy products have been consumed for extensive periods of history extending back to the beginnings of agriculture. Raw dairy products when handled properly contain beneficial bacteria that can prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
The reason why pasteurization was introduced was the urban factory dairy operations in the early 1900’s. The overcrowded and unsanitary conditions cows were raised in allowed for the spread of certain diseases such as tuberculosis. Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization as a way of destroying the pathogenic bacteria.
However, the vast majority of raw dairy is made on small farms with cows raised on pasture as nature intended. Despite this the CDC and other government agencies heavily endorse pasteurization of all dairy products. This has led to raw dairy products being outright illegal to purchase or needing a lease agreement to have the raw dairy products. So what does the safety data really say? Lets take a look.
The CDC’s interpretation of the foodbourne illness data is that raw dairy products cause foodbourne illness 150x more than pasteurized dairy products. That sounds really dangerous right? A deeper look at the data shows some issues with the CDC’s conclusions.
First the CDC included in the data illnesses from consuming a mexican style queso cheese made out of people’s bathtubs. No one would ever recommend consuming a raw cheese made from illegally from someones bathtub. Since we are talking about the safety of raw fluid milk we can exclude the illnesses created from these cheeses. Also to note that raw cheese sold commercially has never been implicated in a disease outbreak.
Also the CDC estimates of the amount of the population that consumes raw dairy products was 3 million. The latest census data shows that 9.4 million people consume raw dairy products. The combination of these two facts alter the interpretation of the data from the CDC.
According to this new interpretation of the data it shows that an average of 42 reported cases per year of foodbourne illness linked to raw dairy products or a 1 in 94,000 chance of getting sick vs a 1 in 880,000 chance of getting sick with pasteurized dairy products. Thats a 9.4x more likely risk not 150x more likely. Also the actual percentage chance of becoming sick is just slightly over one one thousandth of 1%. Here are some other behaviors that are more risky than drinking raw milk.
Seafood causes 29x more illnesses than dairy
Poultry causes 15x more illnesses than dairy
Eggs causes 13x more illnesses than dairy
Beef causes 11x more illnesses than dairy
Pork causes 8x more illnesses than dairy
Produce causes 4x more illnesses than dairy
You also have a 1 in 8,000 chance of dying in a car crash but we all drive cars on a daily basis. This should give some perspective on the actual safety of raw dairy products.
But why should we take the extra risk anyway?
Here are the scientific benefits of raw dairy consumption
Pasteurization decrease the amount of manganese, copper and iron in milk. It also destroys Vitamin C in milk and lowers the activity of B6 in milk as well. beta-lactoglobulin a heat sensitive protein in milk destroyed by pasteurization, increases the absorption of Vitamin A. Calcium is only absorbed in raw milk as well. It cannot be absorbed properly in pasteurized dairy because of the destruction of the photophatase enzyme which is required for the absorption of calcium. Raw milk also inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria as well.
Pasture raised cows raw milk also contains a large amount of conjugated linoleum acid or CLA. CLA helps to decrease fat deposition and has been studied in the reduction of heart disease as well. You can look at the previous blog on pasture raised beef for more benefits of CLA.
Pasteurization destroys the naturally occurring digestive enzymes in milk including lipase that breaks down the fat and also probiotic bacteria which produce lactase enzymes which help break down the milk sugars.
In my opinion there is no reason to drink pasteurized dairy products due to the lack of availability of the nutrients that actually make milk healthy in the first place. To get the benefits while minimizing any of the slight risks, make sure to ask the farmer how they raise their animals and ensure the animals are raised on pasture or if they use antibiotics or hormones. Also ask the farmer to test their dairy for pathogenic bacteria as well. This should ensure you get the highest quality raw dairy available while reducing any possible risks of foodbourne illnesses.
If you are interested in finding a pasture raised farmer who you can access raw dairy products is westonaprice.org.
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