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This is the USA. If I Want to Eat Poo, I Should be Free to Do So.

Milk. It does a body good. Unless you're lactose intolerant, vegan, or drinking raw milk full of poo. Raw, you ask? Full of poo, you ask? Yes, raw and poopy. You see, some people prefer their milk unpasteurized, which raises … Read More

By / December 29, 2007

Milk. It does a body good. Unless you're lactose intolerant, vegan, or drinking raw milk full of poo. Raw, you ask? Full of poo, you ask? Yes, raw and poopy. You see, some people prefer their milk unpasteurized, which raises their chances of gulping down a nice, cold glass of Salmonella with a splash of E. coli.

In California, a new law that's scheduled to take effect next month threatens to set a limit of no more than 10 coliforms per milliliter. In other words, the law won't ban raw milk outright, but the new bacteria limits may be very difficult for producers to meet.

Coliforms are a group of bacteria commonly found in the environment, most of which do not cause disease. Pasteurization, in which milk is heated, kills many bacteria but in raw milk they're still alive. "We found that coliform count is indicative of a healthy and clean and wholesome production process for raw milk," said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Raw milk producers and advocates argue that the product is tested for the bad stuff–like Salmonella and E. coli–and that the other coliforms are what makes raw milk so appealing. According to them, the presence of coliforms in their milk helps boost the immune system (arguably by giving it something to fight).

"There's quite a ruckus right now," said Mark McAfee, founder of Fresno-based Organic Pastures Dairy Co., the larger of two raw milk producers in California. "This is a huge issue and it goes directly to consumer choice. Consumers are fed up with the government being in their kitchens and they want to be able to make their independent choices about food they want to eat."

"There's a bacteria paranoia in our country which is just out of control," McAfee said.

Bacteria paranoia in our country? Absolutely. So, by all means, put down the hand sanitizer: An occasional soap-and-watering of the ol' digits will get the job done just fine! But drink raw milk? Only if your middle name is "Trouble" with a capital "T." After being directed to BarfBlog by the folks at Consumerist, I learned this handy fact:

Before widespread adoption of milk pasteurization, an estimated 25% of all food-borne and waterborne outbreaks of disease were associated with milk.

By 2001, the percentage of such outbreaks associated with milk was estimated at less than 1 per cent.

You do the math.  That said, this is America, and if a patriot wants to guzzle a Salmonella shake, there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop him.  

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