Sometimes local media, well, grinds my crackers.
Back in 2005, in the Pacific NW, there was an E. coli outbreak in people who had drank (drunk?) raw milk from a local producer. The health impact for these people was serious and a number of people were hospitalized. Last week, the owners of the dairy that sold the tainted milk pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle to the charge of distributing adulterated food.
Yesterday's front page news in a major Seattle paper went on to discuss whether or not the legalization of raw milk in the state of Washington should continue.
Now, let's back up for a moment and look at some of the facts. First of all, the milk sold was from a dairy that was not licensed to sell raw milk. In their plea agreements, the owners acknowledged that "the milk was prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health."
Can you cannibalize a whole "industry" based on an incidence by an unlicensed producer? That's like making dental surgery illegal in the state because a number of people sought dental care from an unlicensed dentist and were harmed because of it.
I, for one, have never had raw milk so I cannot speak to its deliciousness or otherwise friendly virtues. The argument for it is that high heat processing (aka pasteurization) kills off a bunch of nutrients so drinking milk in its more natural state is better. There is also the claim that those people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk because it still has the lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact.
The CDC reports that in the last ten years, there were only 39 outbreaks nationwide in which raw milk or cheese made from it were implicated. Of those outbreaks, about 830 people fell ill, 66 were hospitalized and one died. Doug Powell, the scientific director for the International Food Safety Network, states that "the numbers of illnesses from outbreaks caused by unpasteurized milk are not that high."
Also, I do believe that banning something does not remove the demand for it. Driving a product underground does no one any favors. Allowing it, with licensing, regulations and testing, provides that at least some semblance of quality control is adhered.
Washington state law requires that all raw milk carry the following warning: "This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance have the highest risk of harm from use of this product."
One of the issues for many people is the idea that parents will purchase this product and give it to their children, thereby endangering them. But, is this reason enough to ban it?
What's your opinion on raw milk?