In a world of processed foods, conscious eaters are often looking to go as unprocessed as possible. A return to whole foods in their natural state sounds simple, but in a modern society there are some products that do not come without controversy. Raw milk is one of them.
Raw milk, also referred to as unpasteurized milk, has been in the limelight lately as more and more people are consuming it and states are seeing bills to legalize the sale of raw milk. It’s a constant back and forth between both sides. As Food Safety News wrote, “the tightening versus liberalization battle is more like the trench warfare of World War 1.”
So what exactly is the controversy?
On one side there is the pro raw milk movement, led by food activists on a quest for more natural food, health advocates that tout the benefits of a milk that keeps all of its nutrients instead of going through a process of pasteurization, and supporters of “food freedom,” arguing that farmers should have the right to milk a cow and sell that milk directly to consumers who want to buy unpasteurized. Currently the sale of raw milk in the United States is prohibited in 19 states.
Those perspectives are countered with the government and food safety groups reminding people of the physical dangers of drinking raw milk.From the CDC:
“According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.”
Diseases related to the consumption of raw milk have doubled over the past five years. According to the Washington Post, “public health officials have also documented how pathogens in raw milk have produced kidney failure in more than a dozen cases and paralysis in at least two.”
There is no denying that the stories of children contracting food-borne illnesses from the consumption of raw milk are horrific, but supporters counter that the benefits far outweigh the percentage of risk, which is often cited as being very low.
Supporters of raw milk often look to the European countries, long known for their raw milk and raw cheese productions, as very much a part of many countries. Raw milk cheese production in the European Union is allowed, but with specific regulation, and in the United States, raw milk cheese sale is permitted as long as the cheeses have aged more than 60 days. The FDA website actually states that it is unsafe to eat “Soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco made from unpasteurized milk.”
So what stand are we to take on raw milk? Is it safe?
Ultimately, we need to be having a conversation of where our food comes from. “The food or farm freedom movement is really bipartisan,” Massie said. “Many consumers care not only about the safety of their food but also how it was raised. Neither party has a monopoly on healthiness, if you will, and in general this food is healthier,” Rep Thomas Massie told Politico.
You could of course avoid the debate entirely and take the same stand as some scientists who argue that we shouldn’t be drinking milk at all. Because just as all of the arguments for and against unpasteurized milk, there are also many viable reasons that we should give up our milk drinking habits entirely.
We all deserve to be consuming foods that are made in the safest, cleanest and most organic way possible. Whether or not you choose to consume raw milk is up to you, but either way, it’s always important to know where your food comes from.
Photo Credit: Kristen Taylor