The raw milk debate has been raging throughout the U.S. in various states and counties for several years. Proponents says can cure about every ailment known to man, woman or child, but opponents of raw milk advise consumers about the food safety issues with raw, unpasteurized milk and potential deadly pathogens that can lurk within unpasteurized milk.

In an excellent commentary in the April 13 Milford Daily News, Milford, Mass. , Richard Lerner, DVM, MPH discusses raw milk in the context of a local dairy farmer who was ordered last week to stop selling raw milk after tests revealed high levels of bacteria. The MetroWest Daily News says the milk, from Eastleigh Farm had 15 times the allowable limit of coliform, according to a cease-and-desist order that was in effect last week.

In his commentary, Lerner notes that the rhetoric around raw milk is heated.  “The reason that those involved in public health get so bent out of shape about raw milk is twofold: 1) It turns the clock back on science, on proven methods for reducing foodborne illness, and 2) due to the vociferous, combative nature of its proponents, we are required to spend time on a food item that is (fortunately) consumed by a minuscule portion of the population,” he said in the article.

Lerner goes on to say that regarding food safety,  “Currently, there is no such thing as ‘food rights.’ You have no more right to buy raw milk at the grocery store than you have the right to eat in a restaurant that has been closed by the Department of Public Health,” and “Comparing one food to another in terms of risk is spurious. Foods are prepared and consumed differently, and comparing raw milk to beef, chicken, bean sprouts, or gummy bears is useless. The government has never told anyone that he or she can't drink raw milk. What the government has said is that it has the right to regulate commerce in raw milk, the same as it has the right to regulate commerce in tobacco, pork, and gummy bears.”

Bovine Veterinarian has written many articles on raw milk and the dangers of it (see one here). The FDA has stated that raw milk can contain the following dangerous pathogens:

  • Enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Salmonella species
  • E. coli (EHEC) (ETEC)
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Brucella species (abortus –cattle) (melitensis- goats)
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

If adults want to risk their health by consuming raw milk, it’ll be hard to stop them whether legislated or not, but foisting a potentially dangerous substance with unproven benefits on children, and exposing them to potentially life-threatening pathogens, is just irresponsible.  

There is an excellent website that discusses the facts about raw milk, Real Raw Milk Facts, and contains Q&As and scientific information on raw milk, as well as videos of families from across the country who have dealt with devastating illnesses as a result of raw milk  consumption. Arm yourself with the facts so that you can talk to your clients and consumers about the dangers of raw milk.