Thanks to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease control, we finally have the numbers we need to determine the statistical safety of drinking raw milk. Turns out, raw milk really is safer than just about any other food out there — including spinach, peanut butter, and eggs. The risk of contracting an illness from contaminated raw milk is ridiculously small, particularly when you consider the amount of resources the federal government is pouring into undercover investigations of raw milk farmers, raids of buying clubs and co-ops, and creating an anti raw milk campaign.
For years, we’ve known exactly how many people in the U.S. get sick from drinking raw milk (an average of 42 per year). What’s been missing is the baseline — the number of raw milk drinkers in the U.S. In 2007, the CDC conducted a survey to determine the number of raw milk drinkers. And would you believe it? It took them until just a few months ago to make the data public! Running the numbers, it’s not hard to see why…
“At last we have access to the numbers we need to determine the risk of consuming raw milk on a per-person basis,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit nutrition education foundation that provides information on the health benefits of raw, whole milk from pastured cows.
The key figure that permits a calculation of raw milk illnesses on a per-person basis comes from a 2007 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) FoodNet survey, which found that 3.04 percent of the population consumes raw milk, or about 9.4 million people, based on the 2010 census. This number may in fact be larger in 2011 as raw milk is growing in popularity. For example, sales of raw milk increased 25 percent in California in 2010, while sales of pasteurized milk declined 3 percent.
In addition, Dr. Beals has compiled published reports of illness attributed to raw milk from 1999 to 2010. During the eleven-year period, illnesses attributed to raw milk averaged 42 per year.
“Using government figures for foodborne illness for the entire population, Dr. Beals has shown that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk,” says Fallon Morell. “And with good management practices in small grass-based dairies offering fresh unprocessed whole milk for direct human consumption, we may be able to reduce the risk even further.”
“It is irresponsible for senior national government officials to oppose raw milk, claiming that it is inherently hazardous,” says Dr. Beals. “There is no justification for opposing the sale of raw milk or warning against its inclusion in the diets of children and adults.”
According to Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, “Where raw milk is concerned, the FDA has an agenda apart from protecting the public health. The agency wants to restrict and discourage the sale of unprocessed dairy products. This will have the effect of denying freedom of choice.”
“Every time there is a possible connection between illness and raw milk, government officials issue dire press releases and call for bans on raw milk sales,” says Fallon Morell. “However, these numbers fail to justify the government opposition and prove what we’ve known all along, that raw milk is a safe and healthy food.”
So, there you have it! Raw milk is SAFE, and we know how to make it even SAFER. Put cows out to pasture. Let them eat rapidly growing green grasses. Keep milking facilities well-cleaned and sanitized. Use modern refrigeration and stainless steel holding tanks. Keep milk cold while transporting it. If you choose to drink raw milk, only drink this “good stuff.” Don’t drink raw milk that’s been intended for pasteurization (this usually comes from confinement dairies, and isn’t particularly healthful or clean.) It’s so simple, really!
(photo by suzieblackmon)