True or False: You can get tuberculosis from drinking raw milk.
“It is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.”
– Upton Sinclair
My dad called tonight and got me all stirred up. He pointed me to an article in today’s US News about government bans on raw milk. They say they are doing this for the good of the public. Dear God. As if government could find their backside with both hands. I thought I lived in America, the land of the free.
I grew up on raw milk. I loved it then, and I miss it now. I tank up when I go home to visit.
The need for pasteurization began at the dawn of the 20th century as urban dairies began to serve New York, Philadelphia and other cities. Those dairies were situated next to distilleries so the cows could be fed spent mash, which is an inferior animal feed, and the animals were kept in unhygienic conditions, too. This potent combination did indeed result contaminated milk, no doubt (not unlike beef produced in CAFOs today, sadly). So for milk produced this way, pasteurization makes sense (not drinking it makes more sense). It also increases shelf life. So fine, it has its benefits. But it also has its liabilities – it destroys folic acids, numerous vitamins, and lactic acid bacteria (beneficial bacteria). And it just doesn’t taste as good.
The answer to the opening question is complicated (but in the US almost certainly false). Human TB and bovine TB are different. Robert Koch wrote a paper in the late 1800’s citing his finding of TB in milk. This suggested that the cure to TB was pasteurization, which when coupled with the urban dairy situation gave rise to the modern dairy industry. Koch later discovered that human TB and bovine TB were different, which was subsequently proven correct and for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize, yet the brain trusts around at the time publicly denounced his findings and said he was wrong (sound like the h pylori flap in our current history? And don’t get me started on Chrons. Some things never change.). Now granted, bovine TB can be a threat to humans, but milk-borne TB infections in developed countries have been virtually non-existent since about 1960. And it was the development of closed milking systems in the 1920’s, not pasteurization, that virtually eliminated the threat of human TB contamination of milk, which theoretically could happen by having an infected human sneeze into an open container.
So I say let me buy what I want, and let me be responsible for vetting the quality of the source. I do not want a risk-free life; to be alive at all involves some risk. What we need is more transparency, not more regulation. There are lots of sources of great information out there – perhaps the best I’ve read is The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid. It seems to me that raw milk produced in a clean and natural environment is the best way to go if you’re going to drink milk. In any case, I WANT THE CHOICE. When I drink raw milk, I know where it comes from. Government is not capable of protecting me (nor despite the many good individuals I know in government employ are they collectively competent to do so), and it gives a false and dangerous sense of hope to think otherwise.
What’s next, outlawing the sale of caffeinated coffee? And I hope you don’t want real cream in that decaf.