Law For Food: The law affects what you eat. What you buy to eat affects the law.

Is there a US Gov’t Bias against Raw Milk?
24 April 2007, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Meat, Raw Milk

This article is pretty adamant that there is. E.g.,:

Fallon cites the example of a May 1983 outbreak of illness from campylobacter in Pennsylvania, reported to be “associated” with raw milk in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Yet the report admits that cultures of the raw milk from the farm did not yield Campylobacter; members of the farm family routinely drank raw milk and none reported illness.

A more recent example is the March 2, 2007, recall and warning against “Tainted Raw Milk Sold by a York County Dairy,” also in Pennsylvania. Stump Acres Dairy was “linked” to two cases in a Salmonella outbreak. Although none of the dairy’s remaining 250 customers showed signs of illness, Stump Acres Dairy was ordered to suspend sales. Cultures subsequently taken from the dairy and the milk tested negative for Salmonella and the dairy has reopened.

The September 2006 E.coli spinach outbreak provides another example. Over the past eight years, Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno, California has sold over 40 million servings of raw milk without one case of illness; during the same period the California Department of Food and Agriculture has issued at least 19 recalls of pasteurized milk products in California. Frequent testing by Organic Pastures, the state of California, and the veterinary departments of local universities has failed to detect even a single human pathogen in the milk.

It is important, in any discussion of food safety and food-bourne illness, to point out that no food is completely safe: the aim of the regulatory agencies is to manage risk, not to eliminate it. The article notes that the risk of food-bourne illness from other foods such as beef, poultry, and produce (!) are greater than the risks of food-bourne illness from raw milk, and yet raw milk is effectively banned in the U.S.

(Note: it may be the case that drinkers of raw milk are already a self-selecting group which is generally more health-conscious than the overall population. The article doesn’t explain whether the analysis took this into account.)

Still, a worthwhile starting-place for this discussion: can the ban on raw milk be justified in public health terms if foods equally or more likely to be vectors for the same illnesses are not banned?

I’m looking for data on the coincidence of raw milk and food-bourne illness (particularly the two big killers in this vector, Listeria M. and E. Coli.) Stay posted.


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