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The Pasteurized vs. Raw Milk Debate:
What You Need to Know

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to state that drinking raw milk is like playing Russian roulette with your health, increasing numbers of Americans are seeking out this sometimes elusive raw food.

raw milk

"We're not talking about cocaine or guns we're talking about just milk. And to criminalize that and think that that's some kinda crime is really quite crazy when you think about it," said Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy, in response to an FDA investigation into his raw milk.

Currently, sales of raw milk for human consumption are legal in 28 states. However, in most of these, the sales can only be made directly from a farm, or through a cow-share program in which members purchase a portion of the cow, and are therefore owners of the milk it produces.

Raw milk, proponents say, is an outstanding source of beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidolphilus, vitamins, enzmes and calcium. Further, they say that sickness resulting from raw milk is rare -- instead, it is pasteurized milk that is often implicated in outbreaks of food-borne illness.

According to Mark McAfee, founder of Organic Pastures Dairy, which produces a full line of raw organic dairy products for retail sale, "During the period 2000 through 2004 there were several listeria-related food recalls in California associated with pasteurized milk products and ice cream. During this same period more than 12 million servings of Organic Pastures products were consumed and not one person complained of illness and not one pathogen was ever found either by the state, FDA or Organic Pastures."

Organic Pastures then hired a laboratory to perform an experiment. The lab added 10 million counts of pathogens to one-milliliter samples of organic raw milk and found that the pathogens not only would not grow but they also died off. The lab concluded: " ... Organic raw milk and colostrum do not appear to support the growth of pathogens ... "

Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes

Raw milk is only one aspect of the growing raw food movement. Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is the perfect cooking companion for anyone who wants to explore more raw foods, or simply get more fresh, healthy and great-tasting foods into their diet -- but doesn't have a lot of time to do it.

What's Wrong With Pasteurization?

Pasteurization, says the FDA, kills any dangerous bacteria while also destroying bacteria that can cause milk to spoil, thereby extending shelf life and increasing milk safety. According to the FDA, pasteurization can help prevent:

  • Tuberculosis

  • Diphtheria

  • Polio

  • Salmonellosis

  • Strep throat

  • Scarlet fever

  • Typhoid fever

Raw milk proponents, however, say that milk from healthy cows, raised on pasture, rarely contains any dangerous bacteria. Further, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation:

"Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification."

raw milk

Raw milk proponents say they drink raw milk for its health benefits and taste.

The Raw Milk Debate is Heating Up

Organic Patures and Claravale Farm, another raw milk producers in California, are currently fighting a new California law, AB1735. The law would limit levels of coliform bacteria (a type of beneficial bacteria) in bottled raw milk to just 10 per milliliter, which is the same level required of pasteurized milk. However, keeping levels this low is nearly impossible in raw milk, which means the law would all but put raw milk producers out of business.

After a two-month battle, a Superior Court Judge issued a "temporary restraining order" that is keeping California from enforcing the coliform limit in raw milk, and a new hearing -- that could spell either victory or defeat for sales of raw milk in California -- will occur in six to eight weeks.

In the meantime, the FDA has been investigating Organic Pastures -- including asking two employees to "wear a wire" and suggesting it would be made worth their while to do so -- to find out whether the dairy has been illegally selling raw milk out of state.

For more information on the fight for raw milk, visit the Campaign for Real Milk Web site.

Recommended Reading

Eating Raw: The Advantages and Disadvantages According to Various Experts

The FDA Says Cloned Milk & Meat are A-Ok ... How Soon Before You'll be Eating It (Without Knowing It)?


A Campaign for Real Milk March 21, 2008

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