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Raw Milk Can Be Deadly

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

http://www.realmilk.com/why.html

 

Raw milk is unpasteurized. Milk is a highly nutritious food. As such, it is a desirable habitat for many kinds of microorganisms, some of which are beneficial to humans, and others which are not. Pasteurization reduces the number of microorganisms to a level that makes milk safe to drink without significantly altering its nutritional value. Promoters of raw milk often misrepresent the nutrient loses associated with pasteurization. Sometimes their misinformation misrepresents the nutrient losses associated with old-fashioned milk sterilization as applying to modern pasteurization. Other misinformation, such as the completely false claim that pasteurization makes calcium unavailable for absorption by the body, has no basis. The 1994 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey found that 128 of the 3,999 people surveyed reported drinking raw milk. The leading reasons reported for drinking raw milk were: taste (38%), health (17%), nutritional value (10%), and only milk available in the home (10%). Thirty-nine percent obtained raw milk at retail stores, 30% at farms or ranch, 17% at home, and 7% at a dairy [1]. The effect of heat processing on milk is:

Percentages of Nutrients Lost During Pasteurization and Steriliztion [2]

 Pasteurized

Sterilized
 
Nutrient

HTST*

Holder

UHT*

In Bottle
 
Protein  0% 0% 0%

0%
Whey proteins denatured
Fat 0% 0% 0%

0%
Some lost of polyunsaturated fatty acids
Sugar 0% 0% 0%

0%
Slight loss of nutritive value
Minerals  0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Vitamin A 0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Vitamin D 0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Riboflavin 0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Vitamin B6 0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Pantothenic acid 0% 0% 0%

0%
 
Biotin

0%

0%

0%

0%
 
Nicotinic acid

0%

0%

0%

0%
 
Thiamine

10%

10%

10%

35%
 
Vitamin C

10%

20%

10%

50%
 
Folic acid

0%

0%

10%

50%
 
Vitamin B12

0%

10%

20%

30%
 

 *HTST = High-Temperature Short-Time    **UHT = Ultra-High-Temperature (up to 300 degrees for a few seconds)

The struggle over regulating Certified Raw Milk in California

For many years, the state's largest dairy (approximately $100 million per year), Alta Dena Dairy aggressively promoted Certified Raw Milk (CRM) as a health food. The owner, Harold Stueve, was apparently a vitalist (one who believed that unprocessed foods possessed a mystical "life force"). A Los Angeles Times report revealed Stueve's ideology:

Stueve . . . was feeding milk samples to two young pumpkin plants. One plant was being fed raw milk; the other pasteurized. Stueve was convinced that the experiment would show that the raw milk would produce bigger, fatter pumpkins. "The Lord gives us everything in its wholeness, and that's the way He meant us to keep it," he said [3].

The term "certified" raw milk has no public health significance -- it is a marketing term owned by the American Associations of Medical Milk Commissions (AAMMC). AAMMC was organized in 1907 to develop uniform standard for the production of "certified raw milk." One feature at the time was the elimination of bovine tuberculosis from cow herds. However, by 1941, all the disease had been eliminated from all U.S. herds. Hygienic standards are similar in all modern dairy operations. Unfortunately, cleanliness does not protect consumers from every disease that may be transmitted via unpasteurized milk, and animal testing cannot prevent dangerous Salmonella dublin from contaminating milk. During the 1980s, Alta Dena was the lone member of the AAMMC, meaning that it "regulated" itself. The raw milk production facilities were sold by the Stueve family in the late 1980s, so that all milk sold under the Alta Dena label is pasteurized, but the dairy continued to distribute CRM under the name Stueve's Natural Raw Certified Milk (produced by Stueve Brothers Farms at Chino).

Between April, 1971 and March, 1974, S dublin was isolated from 79 persons in California, 37 of whom had medical conditions. Their ages ranged from 1 mo. to 88 yrs; 59 were hospitalized, 16 died, and 32 infections were traced to Alta Dena CRM. Herd tests found that cattle can have localized infections that will not show up in fecal surveys [4]. Salmonella organisms have been recovered 45 times since 1977 from California produced raw milk -- all from Alta Dena's CRM [5]. In 1981, 46 cases of S dublin were reported in California; in 1982, 70 cases were reported. 24% of patients reported using CRM. In 1983, 123 cases were identified, 44% reported using CRM; at least 24 of the 1983 patients had cancer. 80% of patients were hospitalized, 26% died [6]. Alta Dena CRM was also implicated in the Jalisco cheese tragedy that killed 89 people [7]. Stueve refused to believe the data and claimed they were part of a conspiracy against CRM. The facts suggest that just the opposite was true. Alta Dena had strong political support. Governor Jerry Brown was a CRM user. State Senator William Campbell sponsored several bills exempting Alta Dena from control by the state; two such bills passed the legislature but were vetoed by Governor George Deukmejian. Alta Dena also intimidated its critics. It launched a $110 million personal lawsuit against the physician who testified on behalf of children for the American Academy of Pediatrics [8].

Alta Dena's advertising claimed that CRM was the "safest, purest, most wholesome milk you can buy" and distributed "educational" materials claiming that pasteurization markedly reduced the nutritional value of milk. Alta Dena refused to put warning labels on CRM. The Berkeley Co-op reported that the warning signs it voluntarily posted were repeatedly torn down by CRM buyers. The AIDS problem in San Francisco eventually caused its city council to require such a label. Political intervention in Sacramento continued to prevent the Department of Health Services from ordering Alta Dena to pasteurize. A public interest lawsuit brought by Consumer's Union, the American Public Health Association and the California Grey Panthers (a senior citizen consumer group) resulted in a 1985 court order requiring a warning label on CRM. Stueve continued to deny that CRM was responsible for health problems. Alta Dena financed an independent study by the UCLA School of Public Health to determine if CRM was actually a problem. Epidemiologists at UCLA estimated that more than one-third of reported S. dublin infections in California from 1980-83 were attributable to raw milk consumption. It appeared that the incidence of infection was 8 to 35 per 100,000 [9]. It was determined that the relative risk of illness from S. dublin infection for CRM users in 1983 was 158.0 based upon an estimated one pint/day/user consuming some of the 12,000 gallons produced daily [10].

Raw Milk in Interstate Commerce

Alta Dena distributed CRM to nine states. In 1984, Public Citizen Health Research Group petitioned the FDA to ban interstate distribution of CRM as a public health danger, but Alta Dena also had friends in Washington. Congressman William Dannemeyer was Alta Dena's General Counsel, and Ronald Reagan was a California Republican with a strong anti-regulatory agenda--even in matters affecting public health. Reagan's HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler, prevented FDA from acting. Public Citizen then sued Heckler and won. This resulted in a 1987 federal court-order directing the FDA to institute a ban (the judge found that Heckler had acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner by disregarding public health data on the risks of raw milk [11].

The Family Cow

People who remember "the good old days" when many Americans had a family cow, often ask why they did not get sick from drinking raw milk. The answer seems to lie in the fact that people exposed to the same cow, or cows, on a regular basis develop a conferred immunity to the microflora of their specific animals. It is when raw milk is marketed to the general public who has not been regularly exposed to a specific animal, or small number of animals, that infections occur. Further, the people primarily at risk for serious infections or death are those with undeveloped immune systems, such as babies, or adults with disorders that have compromised their immune systems. Healthy young people and adults who are infected are likely to believe that they have had a bout of "stomach flu."

The Bottom Line

NCAHF believes that the evidence is clear. Milk is a wholesome food, but there is nothing to be gained from drinking it in its raw, natural form. CRM poses a serious health risk to significant segments of the population. Only pasteurized milk should be sold for general public consumption.

References

  1. Headrick ML, Timbo B, Klontz KC, Werner SB. "Profile of raw milk drinkers in California," Public Health Reports, 1997;112:418-22.
  2. Harris RS, Karmis E. Nutritional Evaluation of Food Processing. Avi publishing, 1975, p.225.
  3. Jones RA. "Raw milk: a holy war over health," Los Angeles Times August 31, 1984.
  4. MMWR, 1974;23:175.
  5. California Morbidity, 2/27/81.
  6. MMWR 1984;33:196+.
  7. Los Angeles Herald, 8/24/85.
  8. Raw milk and raw nerves [legal harassment of critic] (Bolton) California Pediatrician, Fall, 1992 pp.42-4.
  9. Richwald, et al. "Assessment of the excess risk of Salmonella dublin infection associated with the use of Certified Raw Milk" Public Health Reports, 1988;103:489-93.
  10. MMWR, 1984;33:185-7.
  11. Washington Post, 1/7/87.

Other Resources

  • Association between raw milk and human Salmonella dublin infection (Werner) Brit Med J 1979;2:238-41.
  • The hazard in consuming raw milk (Werner) Western J Med 1982;136:51-2.
  • Endemic Campylobacter jejuni in Colorado: identified risk factors (Hopkins) Amer J Publ Hlth 1984;74:249-50.
  • Raw milk: a holy war over health (Jones) Los Angeles Times Aug 31, 1984.
  • Unpasteurized milk, the hazards of a health fetish (Potter, CDC) JAMA; 1984;252:2050-54.
  • Listeriosis and milk (Barza) New Engl J Med 1985;312:438-40.
  • Campylobacter infection associated with raw milk (Klein) JAMA 1986;255:361-4.
  • The influence of immunity on raw milk (Blaser) JAMA, 1987;257:43-6.
  • Assessment of the excess risk of Salmonella dublin infection associated with the use of Certified Raw Milk" (Richwald) Public Health Reports, 1988;103:489-93.
  • Profile of raw milk drinkers in California (Headrick) Public Health Reports, 1997;112:418-22.
  • Fanning O. The science and politics of raw milk. Nutrition Forum, March 1985.

Copyright Notice

© 1997 National Council Against Health Fraud.
With proper citation, this article may be reproduced for noncommercial purposes

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This article was posted on December 23, 2003.