For nearly five years, my family has drank raw milk. It’s one of the most important staples in our kitchen for sustenance and health. Not once has it made any of us sick. It should be the right of everyone to be able to to choose what foods he or she will and won’t consume. In a country where food recalls are frequent and the companies that sell those products are continued to allow to sell those products despite little to no change in their growing and production habits, I will continue to stand up for our rights as citizens in this country to consume the foods we choose.
Last week, some children in the state of CA became sickened and three were admitted to the hospital. On Tuesday, Novmember 15th, the State of CA issued a recall on all products from Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno, CA. The California Department of Public Health reported that no E. Coli 0157:H7 was found in any of the products taken from the homes of these five children who became ill.
By law, Organic Pastures performs weekly tests on their milk before sale, and continue to receive clean test results. However, because all these children reported drinking raw milk, the State of California maintains that the culprit must be from the milk and that Organic Pastures may not sell dairy products until further notice. According to Mercury News, “California State Veterinarian Annette Whiteford ordered all Organic Pastures’ raw dairy products, except for cheese aged at least 60 days, to be pulled immediately from retail shelves. She strongly urged consumers to dispose of any such products in their refrigerators.”
On the heels of this incident, just two days later, Ready Pac Foods Inc., based in Irwindale, CA was asked to recall 5,379 cases of their bagged salad products due to possible E. coli bacteria contamination. Just last month, another recall of bagged lettuce was issued from Taylor Farms of CA (same state). These are not isolated incidents nor coincidences. The reality is, recalls from bagged produce and other products happen all the time.
Where is the E. coli coming from? Answer: runoff water from factory farms, where E. coli and other pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella are rampant due to unsanitary and unhealthful practices. This is why I don’t buy any bagged lettuce. I buy local, whole heads of lettuce when they are in season, and whole lettuce heads at the health food store, organic when I can.
During the time when my family first started drinking raw milk, for nearly two years we had no raw milk access here in Boise, ID. So I ordered packages of raw dairy products to be shipped to our home every 6-7 weeks. We consumed milk, butter, cheese, and colostrum and it was a delicious and nutritious part of our family meals. Then, the State of CA decided that raw dairy foods could no longer be shipped beyond the borders of their state, so we had to start finding raw dairy sources here in ID.
What’s all the fuss about raw milk, anyway?
Raw milk receives a great deal of criticism by mainstream health communities and the media. But raw milk from healthy cows on pasture is a safe and natural food, no different than farm-fresh produce from sustainable farmers using healthy practices. It’s important to note that thousands upon thousands of food products are recalled in our food system regularly – including many types of fruits and vegetables which have been found to contain the E. coli bacteria. And yet you won’t hear medical and health authorities telling the consumer public to stop buying and eating these foods.
When milk is pasteurized, the heating process destroys healthy bacteria which prevents the pathogenic from becoming a problem. The beneficial bacteria, found in raw milk, are largely unavailable in the food supply due to processing, irradiation, and pasteurization. We need these bacteria to keep our digestive and immune systems, and health in optimal condition. Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., a leading authority in health, discusses the importance of probiotics in maintaining our health. Pasteurization also destroys necessary enzymes which allow us to absorb the nutrients found in milk.
Raw milk is not the same
Of course, authorities claim raw milk is different than fruits and vegetables. They say it isn’t the same as consuming raw vegetables or other agricultural products containing pathogenic bacteria because milk is not cooked, such as vegetables, or washed and that if contamination exists there is really no method of destroying it. Public health officials contend that pasteurization was developed to kill these harmful bacteria, since before it was used milk contained harmful bacteria that regularly made people sick or killed them.
Commercial dairies use unsafe and unsanitary practices
In her book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck tells us that pasteurization came along as a response to slop dairies in the 1800s, which started to spring up in urban cities in the eastern U.S. These dairies were located next to whiskey distilleries for convenience – they used cheap feed from the distilleries in order to control costs. Some of the dairy owners even added molasses, burned sugar, starch, flour, or chalk to impart more texture and body. Some dairies added water to their milk to stretch the milk farther and save more money.
Cows also lived in the most horrific, unsanitary conditions as well, and were often found crammed together in close quarters, having open sores on their bodies, and ulcerated gums with teeth falling out. It’s no surprise that when the cows consumed this feed and lived in this manner, they became sick. Then, the milk consumed from the cows in these dairies made humans sick – causing all the diseases which have been reported by public health officials for many years and bringing the justification for pasteurization to surface – tuberculosis and brucellosis (also known as undulant fever), and many others.
Cattle are ruminants and their digestive systems are intended to process grass – not grain, corn, soy, flour, sugar, or any other substance. When you take the cow out of its natural environment of pasture and sunshine, and force feed it substances it was not meant to ingest, problems occur. In the case of slop dairies, regulations and laws for keeping cows healthy and clean were not in place; and the advent of pasteurization did not improve conditions, it only allowed them to continue.
So when public health officials made the statement about pasteurization being developed to destroy harmful bacteria – they were only partially right. The pathogens were indeed there due to the horrific conditions present in dairies, but pasteurization doesn’t always solve the problem. Nina Planck also mentions the fact that certain bacteria such as Listeria, are not impervious to pasteurization. Also, in large dairies, pasteurization “allows less scrupulous dairy farmers to be lax with cow health and milk handling because they count on pasteurization to destroy pathogens – at least the heat-sensitive ones – that may taint milk.” This is as true today as it was over a hundred or more years ago.
Watch highlights from the video conference given by Mark McAfee about the recall:
Read the official press release from Organic Pastures. And, please take action and make your voice heard about this matter!
California Department of Food and Agriculture, Office of Public Affairs, Steve Lyle:
Leave your comments on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Facebook page.
Keep up with the latest developments on this case via Organic Pastures Facebook page.
What’s the bottom line?
Raw milk from healthy cows on pasture eating grass is the obvious choice for health – it is full of important beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and brimming with nutrients that simply are difficult to obtain in most of what’s available in our food supply. Milk that is pasteurized is sure to contain harmful bacteria that will make you sick, and as we’ve reviewed, pasteurized milk is not always “safe” to consume.
This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania.