Real Raw Milk Facts

Editorial: Ending Raw Milk Risk

From the Toronto Star:

Louis Pasteur was right — and so is an Ontario court ruling against the distribution and sale of potentially dangerous raw milk. Self-described advocates of “food freedom” may lament the finding against Grey County dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, and he vows to appeal. But public safety must come first.

The ruling by Justice Peter Tetley reverses an earlier, ill-judged decision that had allowed Schmidt to continue his raw milk operation on grounds that the farmer’s “cow share” cooperative did not violate health and safety regulations. While the sale of unpasteurized milk is banned in Ontario, farmers are allowed to drink their own product. Taking advantage of that, Schmidt had people buy a share of his cows and obtain raw milk as a result of their investment. Tetley didn’t accept that marketing dodge, and rightly so.

Almost 150 years ago Pasteur showed that heating milk to at least 63 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes kills harmful pathogens, including listeria, salmonella and E. coli. The procedure was so effective at saving lives it has become a standard public health practice. Indeed, Toronto was a leader in this area, passing a bylaw in 1915 requiring pasteurization of milk sold in the city (the Star played an important role in that campaign). Unfortunately, akin to the backlash against immunization, some people insist they’re better off without this protection.

In fact, there is virtually no sound scientific evidence supporting the claim that raw milk improves people’s health. On the contrary, there’s a mountain of data showing it can be dangerous. It’s especially risky for children, pregnant women and the elderly.

When farmers like Schmidt drink their own raw milk they risk only their own health. It’s entirely another matter to allow legal distribution of this product for consumption by the broader public, especially by unsuspecting youngsters.

Raw milk advocates claim to drink it with no ill effect. And there’s no reason to doubt them. Most batches, by far, are free of pathogens. The threat isn’t in every glass but in the one, impossible-to-predict sample that carries dangerous illness.

It’s the same way that Russian roulette is safe — until you reach the chamber with a bullet. Society mustn’t be exposed to that risk.

Read the original editorial:

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