The Controversial Issue of Raw Milk

ANALYSIS - Is raw milk real milk? Unpasteurised milk is a difficult issue. In the US over the past few years its popularity has risen, as consumers want more unprocessed, "real" foods, writes Charlotte Johnston, TheCattleSite editor.
calendar icon 12 February 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

Advocates of raw milk believe that the product has various health benefits, including an increase in proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Contrary to this, the US Food and Drug Administration clearly states that consumption of raw milk is a public health risk because it may contain harmful bacteria that are eliminated by pasteurisation.

But despite this, several Eastern and Midwestern states have recently ramped up legislative activity regarding the sale of raw milk for human consumption.

Legislatures in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Jersey are moving bills that would allow consumers to purchase raw milk directly from farms or as part of a cow-share programme, despite recent news reports highlighting the dangers of drinking unpasteurised milk.

Currently, there are 15 states that allow the farm sale of unpasteurised milk, while another 10 permit its retail sale.

These bills could see an increase in income for many small producers who are able to sell products off the farm.

Surprisingly for some, the majority of the dairy industry is adamantly opposing these bills on consumer health grounds. The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation are fighting hard to oppose upcoming bills.

Raw milk from a dairy in Pennsylvania is now linked to 38 cases of campylobacter illness in four states, and the farm has suspended sales. Campylobacter can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever and can be life-threatening if it spreads to the bloodstream.

Milk is probably one of the safest products on the market, down to the inspections, testing and pasteurisation that take place.

Is it a good idea to allow the sale of unpasteurised milk that has not been officially tested and inspected to consumers who may not fully understand the risks?

Or should we have more faith in our consumers?

If we are not even free anymore to decide something as basic as what we wish to eat or drink, how much freedom do we really have left, asked Texas Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul, commenting on raw milk regulations last year.

A proposal by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) last month could see restrictions on the sale and production of raw milk products in Australia relaxed.

Charlotte Johnston, Editor

Charlotte Johnston - Editor

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