Real Raw Milk Facts

New Jersey: Rutgers Profs At Odds Over Raw Milk

Dr. Donald Schaffner, a highly regarded microbiologist and Director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers University, countered claims by Professor Joseph Heckman, a soil scientist and popular raw milk activist from the same university. Andrea Alexander writes about the interesting debate in Rutgers Today.

Debate Over Raw Milk Stirs Up Controversy in New Jersey and at Rutgers

University soil scientist wants the state to allow raw milk sales but microbiologists question its safety

Professor Joseph Heckman’s advocacy to legalize the sale of raw milk in New Jersey has made him the target of some harsh criticism. One Rutgers food scientist recently accused Heckman of championing a product that is potentially deadly.

But Heckman, a professor of soil science, is not backing down. He passionately believes in the benefits of raw - or unpasteurized- milk and said he has the scientific literature to back it up. He cites studies that have shown drinking raw milk helps to alleviate allergies and asthma.

“If we could find a pharmaceutical that could do what raw milk does there would probably be somebody out there trying to get it on the market and patent it,’’ Heckman said.

Mark Robson, dean of agricultural and urban programs, had also been the target of some criticism when he funded seminars on raw milk in 2008 that Heckman led. But he says the debate definitely has a place on campus.

“It’s remarkably controversial but our role as a land grant university is to look at all of this,’’ Robson said.

When Robson faced some push back for allowing the seminars, he told his critics, “I am not advocating for drinking raw milk but I am trying to do my job as an academic leader and allow dialogue.’’

Proponents of raw milk believe that pasteurization, the process of heating milk to kill harmful bacteria, also destroys some of the beneficial components. And they say not all milk is fit to sell without pasteurization. Raw milk that is safe to drink comes from healthy cows that are fed their natural diet and in a clean environment.

Heckman, whose interest in soil science stems from his childhood growing up on an organic farm in Ohio, sees a connection between the raw milk movement and soil fertility. Cows on pasture become part of a healthy farm ecosystem that builds organic matter and increases nutrients in the soil, Heckman said.

Advocates say healthy cows that are fed their natural diet like these produce milk that is safe to drink without without pasteurization.

He acknowledged the issue is controversial. He has offered to present a seminar for the food science department to explain why he supports allowing the sale of raw milk and why he believes it’s a healthy beverage. He grew up drinking raw milk, and said he developed allergies in college after he switched for several years to store-bought milk.

Donald Schaffner, Director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers, said he knows of no microbiologists that support drinking raw milk but he takes a moderate view when it comes to access.

“If people want to drink raw milk they should able do to that,’’ Schaffner said.

But Schaffner cautions that pregnant women, the elderly and children are at a higher risk said he would not recommend they drink raw milk.

He called it “a risky food’’ adding that “pasteurization of milk was one of the great public health success stories of the 20th century.’’

“I would say virtually 100 percent of food microbiologist in industry, in government, in academia find that raw milk poses significant risk and should not be consumed,’’ Schaffner said. “I don’t know of any food microbiologists that are raw milk advocates.’’

Read the full story:

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