Dairy is undoubtedly controversial. Regardless of whether it’s raw or pasteurized, many health experts would argue that it’s for babies, not adults.
Nature didn’t intend for milk to nourish adults. In fact, babies are weaned from their mothers’ breasts around the time their new teeth allow for proper consumption of solid food. Lactose intolerance is another valuable argument, with mammals generally losing the ability to digest lactose around the age of two. This explains the stigma surrounding milk for many — it makes them gag!
If it doesn’t make you queasy, and you do not have an intolerance to it, you may very well enjoy a glass occasionally (or regularly). That’s where the argument of the raw milk versus pasteurized milk comes into play.
Increasing numbers of Americans have gone back to the basics, preferring whole, organic foods. The movement also encompasses unpasteurized, or raw, dairy products. People desire them both for their health benefits as well as their flavour.
But while in Europe, raw milk cheese is so common that you can find it in vending machines, the U.S. federal regulators have kept a tight grip on our freedom to choose our dairy over safety risk concerns.
The argument may be popularized by opposing views, but the underlying issue is more fundamental than that. Should the FDA really have a say on the food you eat?
In opposition to the raw milk movement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report arguing that dairy consumption causes an average of 760 illnesses and 22 hospitalizations each year, and of those, 96% were apparently caused by contaminated unpasteurized milk.
Important to note is that the report is just an estimate, its numbers derived from a model stemming from publicly available outbreak data. This doesn’t make it cut-and-dry science.
It’s largely been realized that the government’s handle on food and drug is meant to provide profit, and keep the powerful intact, while people’s health and well-being are left by the wayside. This agenda makes it difficult for Americans to access alternative medicine, as well as natural food.
Some of the statements made in the CDC’s recent report only support such beliefs, like this one, which relies on a mere assumption to justify tightening up raw milk regulations: “An easing of regulations has allowed greater access to unpasteurized milk in recent years, and this study shows that illnesses and hospitalizations will rise as consumption of unpasteurized dairy products increases.”
Further holes in the report include that it specifically looked at raw dairy contaminated with escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, listeria and campylobacter. Campylobacter is commonly found contaminating produce and CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) chickens.
In April 2017, the CDC even released a report that revealed 8,547 cases of the more than 24,000 foodborne infections reported in 2016 were caused by campylobacter. The CDC found that, “Campylobacter was found on 47 percent of raw chicken samples bought in grocery stores and tested through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., raw milk cheese is aged 60 days before being sold to consumers, and in many instances, this process results in a lower-moisture, more acidic environment that discourages the growth of harmful pathogens.
The CDC may have it out for raw milk, but it’s hard to ignore the reality that, with bacteria present in large-scale food production and global distribution, massive batches of food are often subject to quick contamination.
If you look at the bigger picture, the FDA and other government agencies’ tight grip on food is not just about milk. There is potential that one day, all food could be pasteurized and genetically engineered. This makes it urgent that we reclaim the right to buy and consume raw milk.
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