Drinking Raw Milk? Let Us Hurl Some Information At You

By Julianna LeMieux — May 16, 2017
Many things in life invite skepticism, but the safety of pasteurized milk is not one of them. In fact, the CDC's new report states that unpasteurized dairy products cause 840 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than pasteurized products. But guess what? Raw milk sales are rising as people (falsely) believe it's healthier.   

Why is it that some of the best public health measures, with proven effectiveness, are shunned by some people? 

Of course, vaccines are the canonical example of this. Now, we can add pasteurization. 

Pasteurization is a 100-year-old process that kills bacteria. This is important because there can be harmful bacteria in the food that we eat and drink - most notably Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coliSalmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter sp.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a new report saying that unpasteurized (or raw) milk is consumed by only 3.2% of the population, but, along with the even smaller percentage of people who consume unpasteurized cheese, causes 96% of illnesses caused by contaminated dairy products. [1]

Unpasteurized dairy products cause 840 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than pasteurized products.

Despite this, there is a surge in the popularity of unpasteurized (or raw) milk being sold. As consumption of unpasteurized dairy products grows, illnesses will increase steadily - some of which can be serious and cause hospitalization. 

The question that remains is why is raw milk's popularity increasing? Why not just go along with convention and drink pasteurized milk? What is the motivation behind being anti-pasteurization? 

To find out, I visited the website of Dr. Axe. I'm not going to link to it because I do not want you to go there, even if you are laying awake at night wondering about the "Top 25 Peppermint Oil Uses and Benefits". At first, I thought that his advice on raw milk was simply ridiculous. But, then I found it udderly ludicrous (I'm so sorry.)

The Dr. (who, by the way, is a chiropractor) writes, 

"If you’ve been told that drinking raw milk is dangerous, you’ll be surprised to know that you’ve been mislead.  The truth about raw milk? An extensive look into research and claims made by the FDA and CDC related to raw milk being dangerous have beenn found to be completely unwarranted. It actually benefits your body in many ways, and although it might have earned a reputation among some for being dangerous, you shouldn’t miss out on all this amazing superfood has to offer because raw milk benefits are truly impressive." 

First of all, there are two typos in one paragraph - a lack of attention to detail that results in him losing all credibility.

That aside, he makes claims about "extensive look[s]" into unwarranted research without sharing any data himself. There is simply nothing unfounded about this process.

Let's look at the facts. 

1) Bacteria make you sick. The idea that bacteria cause disease has been around for centuries when the "germ theory of disease" was first proven. Although it was hotly contested in the 1800s, it is a staple of scientific dogma today. 

2) There are bacteria in raw milk. A cow's udder is located very closely to other areas of its body that are dirty. When milking a cow, there could be urine, fecal matter, etc. in the area. Never mind the fact that it's a cow - a dirty animal.

So, we agree that there is bacteria in raw milk and bacteria can make you sick. What is unwarranted about that? 

Raw milk is not available for sale everywhere. There are a variety of laws concerning raw milk distribution, depending on where you live (see map below.) In ten states, retail sale of raw milk is legal. In eight states, it is illegal. The remaining states have varying restrictions, including the ability to buy a 'herd share' or portion of a cow. In that case, you are allowed to have the milk from the cow that you partially own.

Dr. Axe buys raw milk at his local farmers market. He writes,

"I go to my local farmers market and buy raw goat’s milk kefir, raw cheeses and plain raw milk. In the state I live it’s labeled “for pet consumption only,” and while I do give raw milk to my dog, my whole family enjoys the benefits of raw milk from the farmers market." 

So, instead of buying milk from his grocery store - that sells food for people, he buys milk that is labeled to warn people against drinking it, is fit for his pet and may contain potentially harmful bacteria.

Yeah - and the FDA and CDC are the ones who are wrong here.... 

Raw milk proponents think that the pasteurization process somehow makes the milk less nutritive. However, there are no data to support this. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that "Substantial data suggest that pasteurized milk confers equivalent health benefits compared with raw milk, without the additional risk of bacterial infections" and that "the benefits of these natural (raw) factors have not been clearly demonstrated in evidence-based studies and, therefore, do not outweigh the risks of raw milk consumption." 

So, if you feel like you need to rebel against something, go ahead. But, pick something other than pasteurized milk. Choosing to reject pasteurized milk may leave you sick as a dog - the same one that the raw milk's consumption is labeled for. 

[1] These are CDC estimates.

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