Raw milk is either going to kill us or make us live forever, according to experts

Apparently, according to the Minnesota Dept. of Health, if raw milk from one dairy farm in Minnesota is contaminated with E. Coli, then raw milk in general presents a serious health risk.

And apparently, according to a dairy farm accused of having contaminated milk, there’s no way it could be their fault, even though five people have been hospitalized and the same strain of E. coli found in several animals at the farm in question has been found in the sick people.

Sure, it’s possible that the dairy industry somehow has manipulated the Dept. of Health into scaring people off raw milk from family farmers — after all, it did a good job scaring Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle last month. But isn’t it possible that one farm can screw up without an entire product being considered dangerous?

And let’s not even get into whether raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk or not, since even that seems to be a major debate, with both sides telling us the other milk is going to kill us.

Anyway, we might as well have the regular people who don’t know anything spout off about it on PDD. So, is raw milk going to kill us or make us live forever? Or is it just as dangerous as other food products and probably not much more nutritious, but comes from a nice little farm where the cows are treated well and that’s good enough?

19 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

"But isn't it possible that one farm can screw up without an entire product being considered dangerous?"
I'm sure someone is itching to call me out on that remark by quoting this paragraph from the Dept. of Health release:
"Between 1973 and 1992, 46 outbreaks associated with raw milk consumption were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 45 outbreaks were reported to CDC between 1998 and May 2005, accounting for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths."
I was foolishly tricked by a statement from a post on the Complete Patient blog, which is apparently true but misleading:
"If it turns out the Minnesota dairy was the source of the problematic E.coli, this would be the first raw milk outbreak in Minnesota in at least 15 years."
The definition of "outbreak" seems to be in question, depending on which side of the hyperbole you're on.

edgeways

about 14 years ago

Don't know about raw milk by itself, but I know cheese made from raw milk is extra tasty ... and is hella hard to get.  :(

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

Green Pastures Dairy in Carlton, just off County Road 61 and the Munger Trail, has raw milk cheeses -- along with raw milk. 

Driving (or biking) 30 miles away may or may not qualify as "hella hard," but that's my plug of the day.

They also have super good smoked bacon, among other things. 

Danny

about 14 years ago

I blame Israel.

Danny

about 14 years ago

I also blame BP.

TimK

about 14 years ago

If I'm understanding this correctly, the CDC numbers are national. It wouldn't be surprising for any food-borne illness to affect X-number of people depending on the scale of distribution of the particular food. So- IMHO, you are probably more likely to be hit by lightning. I personally prefer my milk pasteurized, but I drank a lot of raw milk as a kid and I ain't dead yet!

eco eco

about 14 years ago

You're missing the debate about whether cow's milk is good or bad for you in any form.

Lojasmo

about 14 years ago

If I could get raw (pastured)  milk, I would drink it.  As itis, I don't drink milk.

Gwanto

about 14 years ago

Ah... we're talking about simple ol' milk, right? 

This is a lengthy, lengthy topic that is deeply rooted, and as with all other things food-related, highly political. No one seems to really know for sure, which has a lot to do with each side pushing their agendas equally as hard. The fact is, many of us 30-somethings and older drank "raw" milk as kids (even though we didn't know it) and ended up fine. 

Pasteurization is a heating process that kills most harmful bacteria if any are present. 99.9% of pasteurized milk is also homogenized, which is a process of shooting the milk through a (basically) screened plumbing system. Also, often more ingredients are added, such as additional butterfat, minerals, etc. In the end, the molecular composition of pasteurized/homogenized/additive milk has been significantly changed, depleting it of the many reasons we drink milk in the first place. It also has a much longer (and quite unnatural) shelf life because of the above described processes. Let's call this pseudo milk for now. 

Let's not forget that this side of milk is a billion dollar industry. 

Raw milk has had nothing done with it. There's no screwing around. So it's better for you, right? Yes. There's nothing wrong with raw milk if you get it from a farm that is CLEAN, and keeps their grounds and animals CLEAN.... and that's really the big issue. 

Corporate farms that pasteurize/homogenize their milk don't and aren't as clean. They don't have to be. 

Out here in the boonies, we have several resources for raw milk. Overall, it tastes better and is a hell of a lot better to cook with (like making cheese). Besides, the cooking process will kill any harmful bacteria if any os present. Also, I thought I was lactose intolerant for years. Turns out, my body just can't handle the pasteurized/homogenized pseudo-milk. As far as I've researched, this is very common. Most people who think their lactose intolerant really aren't. They (and myself) just can't drink pseudo milk. 

In our home, we use more soy-, almond-, or rice- based milk than anything. Every once in a while, we'll get raw milk, mainly for making cheese and the like. 

All in all, drink whatever the hell you please, for all I care. Raw milk is real milk. Pseudo milk is just that. 

If you can find raw milk, visit the farm and meet the farmers and take a tour. Inspect it for cleanliness. The main farm we go through is unbelievably clean. 

Do some research. There's a lot out there. 

That's all for now, and this is only a tiny bit of the iceberg, but I hope it helps at least a little.

huitz

about 14 years ago

@Gwanto...

Louis Pasteur would be turning in his grave.

Though my grandparents drank almost directly from the teat with no ill affects, pasteurization is actually a good thing.

Not @Gwanto...

With that said, let's see.  Five out of how many people purchased a variety of products in the area?  In law, it's spurious to make an argument like that.  You can get that strain of E. Coli by eating contaminated lettuce and undercooked meat.  In other words, you don't know it came from the milk.

Anna

about 14 years ago

Actually, humans are the only animals to continue to consume milk beyond nursing.

Gwanto, I also thought I was lactose intolerant until I started dating a farm boy and was introduced to real milk.

edgeways

about 14 years ago

Gotta admit I'm pretty ambivalent about milk, I don't seek it out, but don't avoid it. If push came to shove I could give it up pretty easy. However, I've yet to find an alternative to milk based cheese and ice cream that is remotely to my liking and cheese and ice cream would be painful for me to forgo. 

Thanks for the Green Pastures tip Paul, I will definitely check the place out next time I head to Jay Cooke.

maria

about 14 years ago

There is a coconut milk-based ice cream at the co-op (coconut dream? cocolicious? or something) that is really good. Coconut milk has lots of fat, which I think helps.

There is no fake cheese that can substitute for real cheese, I am sad to say.

huitz

about 14 years ago

Anna,

You are seriously going to say that no other mammal consumes milk after adulthood.  I'll give you a hint, hyenas, after a kill. But, in all honesty, most any carnivore.

Anna

about 14 years ago

"Milk is a maternal lactating secretion, a short-term nutrient for newborns. Nothing more. Invariably, the mother of any mammal will provide her milk for a short period of time immediately after birth. When the time comes for 'weaning', the young offspring is introduced to the proper food for that species of mammal. A familiar example is that of a puppy. The mother nurses the pup for just a few weeks and then rejects the young animal and teaches it to eat solid food. Nursing is provided by nature only for the very youngest of mammals. Of course, it is not possible for animals living in a natural state to continue with the drinking of milk after weaning." 

Kradjian, Robert M. The Milk Letter : A Message To My. Patients. Sunday New York Times Magazine, October 6, 2002.

markm

about 14 years ago

To add a little perspective, I think along with being the only animals to drink milk after early childhood, we are the only animals that cook food.

spy1

about 14 years ago

News Release 
June 11, 2010 

Three more E. coli cases linked to raw milk from farm 
Additional testing of environmental, animal samples finds outbreak strain 

State health officials have identified three additional cases of E. coli O157:H7 illness in Minnesotans linked to consumption of raw milk or other dairy products from a dairy farm in Gibbon, Minnesota. 

Since May 26, including the new cases, a total of eight E. coli O157:H7 cases in seven different homes have been linked to products from the Hartmann Dairy Farm. 

Two of the newly identified cases occurred in school-aged children who consumed milk from the Hartmann Dairy Farm. Both cases had E. coli O157:H7 with the same DNA fingerprint as five earlier cases associated with dairy products from the Hartmann farm. The other newly reported case occurred in an infant living in the same household as one of the earlier five cases. The infant had a confirmed case of E. coli O157:H7, but no stool sample was available for genetic fingerprinting in the MDH lab. 

Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 illness include stomach cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. People typically become ill two to five days after eating contaminated food. E. coli O157:H7 disease sometimes leads to a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure and other severe problems, including death. HUS can occur a week or more after the onset of diarrhea. Those most at risk of developing complications from E. coli include the very young, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. 

Health officials said today that 28 environmental and animal samples obtained by the Minnesota Department of Health from the Hartmann farm have now tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Twenty-six samples had the same DNA fingerprint as the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. These additional positive samples include environmental samples from the dairy barn where the cows are milked. The DNA fingerprint is unique among the more than 3,000 isolates of E. coli 0157:H7 tested at the Minnesota Department of Health since 1993. This strain of E. coli O157:H7 has not previously been found in Minnesota. 

Consumption of raw milk and other raw dairy products has been associated with outbreaks in Minnesota as well as in other states. Raw milk-related illnesses have been caused by E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria. 

Anyone who has experienced illness after consuming raw dairy products should consult their health care provider. 

-MDH-

huitz

about 14 years ago

Anna,

Talking about consuming milk (lapping up) from the victim of the kill, not weaning.

Steve

about 14 years ago

We are not the only mammals post-weaning that will drink milk - as stated predators/carnivores will feast on the sweetness of milk if they kill a nursing cow/dam/whatever. Furthermore, the fact that there is not a chance appears to be the largest factor in adult mammals not getting milk and in some species -- bovine, primate -- older individuals will try to "steal" milk from a nursing mother, she usually fights it off, but not always successful. 

I think if you trust the farm then you could trust the milk -- ask the question you might of anything else you are purchasing or putting in your mouth: would you drink it? Ask the seller -- do you drink it? Would you allow your kids to drink it? I think, if you can trust the response, that's an answer you can hang your hat on. 

Just my 2¢.

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