By Dr. Mercola
Increasing numbers of Americans are seeking out unpasteurized, or raw, dairy products — both for the health benefits and the flavor. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, has released a report that's clearly an attempt to squelch the growing enthusiasm for obtaining farm-fresh foods like raw milk and cheese.1
The report is only an estimate, made using a model relying on publicly available outbreak data, so it's far from an exact science. Further, the outbreak numbers are very small. According to the report, dairy consumption causes an average of 760 illnesses and 22 hospitalizations a year. Of those, they claim that 96 percent are caused by contaminated unpasteurized milk.
Statements made in the study suggest it may be used as cannon fodder for government to act against the interest of food freedom, especially in terms of loosening the nonsensical regulations that make it difficult if not impossible for so many Americans to access this natural food.
For instance, the CDC said: "An easing of regulations has allowed greater access to unpasteurized milk in recent years, and this study shows that illnesses and hospitalizations will rise as consumption of unpasteurized dairy products increases" — an assumption that paves the way for raw milk regulations, already a topic of heated debate, to be tightened.
Also curious is the fact that the study specifically looked at raw dairy contaminated with escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, listeria and campylobacter — the latter of which is commonly found contaminating produce and CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) chickens!
Campylobacter — No. 1 Cause of Food Poisoning in the US — Is a CAFO Chicken Bug
Salmonella has been the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. for the last 20 years, but as of 2016 it's been unseated by campylobacter. In April 2017, the CDC released a preliminary report stating that 8,547 cases of the more than 24,000 foodborne infections reported in 2016 were caused by campylobacter (compared to 8,172 caused by salmonella).2
It's likely not a coincidence that these two bugs are then singled out as major drivers of outbreaks related to unpasteurized dairy. The CDC report noted, " … [O]utbreak-related illnesses will increase steadily as unpasteurized dairy consumption grows, likely driven largely by salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis."3
It seems strange to peg campylobacter as a "raw milk germ," when it's regularly detected in CAFO chicken sold in U.S. supermarkets. According to the CDC, "Campylobacter was found on 47 percent of raw chicken samples bought in grocery stores and tested through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)."4 The CDC also states:5
"Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items … Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can have enough campylobacter in it to infect a person!
One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods."
Also revealing, while campylobacter is the bacteria responsible for most cases of foodborne illness, leafy greens are actually the No. 1 source of food poisoning in the U.S, accounting for nearly half of all illnesses.6 It would seem to be a mystery why, then, raw dairy is considered worthy of banning, until you understand that it's seen as a direct competitor to Big Dairy.
Preventing Farmers From Selling Raw Milk to You Facilitates Price Fixing, Consolidation of Big Dairy
The war against raw milk has been one of the most successful, fear-based campaigns ever created to monopolize an industry. As long as farmers are prevented from selling to consumers directly, processors can and do price fix the market, ultimately leading to the intentional destruction of small, family dairy farms and consolidation of CAFO dairy farms using taxpayer-funded subsidies.7
As CAFOs became the norm for dairy farms (even in idyllic-seeming dairy states like Vermont), farmers were forced to grow their herds and increase milk production using artificial (drug and hormone-based) methods, among others (like feeding cows an unnatural amount of grain-based food, 24-hour confinement and increased number of milkings per day).
The price of milk is now so low that an average-sized dairy farm in Vermont (about 125 cows) is operating at a loss of $100,000 a year. It's gotten so bad that farmers in Vermont only get about $14 for 11.6 gallons of milk, which cost about $22 to produce. So they're essentially paying about $8 to sell 11.6 gallons of milk.8
Corporate Giants Benefit When Milk Prices Tank
In 2016, the industrial dairy industry dumped 43 million gallons of milk due to a massive milk glut. The glut was the result of a 2014 spike in milk prices, which encouraged many dairy farmers to add more milk cows to their farms. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed that dairy cows increased by 40,000 in 2016, with a 1.4 percent increase in production per cow.
With too much milk and nowhere to sell it, prices tanked. Milk prices declined 22 percent in recent months to $16.39 per 100 pounds — a price so low some farmers could no longer afford to even transport it to the market.9 As VT Digger reported:10
"The only happy faces in the Vermont dairy industry are Ben & Jerry's, Cabot Cheese, Dean Foods, and a few other conventional milk users. They are happy because they are making huge profits at the same time that milk prices to farmers are hovering in the $13 to $15 range for 100 pounds of milk (11.6 gallons). The farmers are not happy since they are hemorrhaging money — lots of money — since it costs about $22 to produce that 100 pounds of milk.
Both St. Albans Co-op, which supplies Ben & Jerry's, and Agri-Mark, which supplies Cabot, have been losing an increasing number of farmers to bankruptcy because of too much conventional milk and low prices; all this, while their corporate profits soar."
Raw Milk Cheese Culture Is Booming in the US
Raw milk cheese is so common in Europe that you can even find it in vending machines, while in the U.S. federal regulators have been threatening to ban raw milk products, including raw cheese, due to what they claim are increased safety risks — safety risks that have been greatly overblown.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) surveyed more than 1,600 raw milk cheeses in 2014 and found only 10 of them, or 0.62 percent, contained listeria.11 Not to mention that, in the U.S., raw milk cheese is aged 60 days before being sold to consumers. In some types of cheeses, such as Gruyere, this process leads to a lower-moisture, more acidic environment that discourages the growth of pathogens like listeria.12 And there's a reason why many award-winning cheeses are made from raw milk.
Piero Sardo, president and scientific adviser of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and Cheese, explains some of them in the video above.13 Pennsylvania cheesemaker Sue Miller also explained to Mother Nature Network:14
"There are all these great enzymes living in the milk when it's raw that create flavor profiles. When milk is pasteurized, they get extinguished so you have to add cultures to accentuate the flavors of the milk … I'd love for people to really try raw milk cheese. In Europe people don't want pasteurized cheese. They know how good raw milk cheese is."
'Food Freedom' Bill in North Dakota Excludes Raw Milk
As more Americans demand the right to purchase and consume locally sourced food of their own choosing, increasing numbers of states are introducing legislation to loosen restrictions regarding intrastate sales of raw milk. Raw milk, by the way, is the only food banned from interstate commerce.
In North Dakota, House Bill 1433 would have allowed farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers. As it stands, North Dakotans who wish to purchase raw milk must purchase a share of the cow or herd. The "Food Freedom" bill also includes other measures, like a cottage food operator provision that allows people to produce and package food made in a home kitchen, as well as an exemption from grading eggs that come from a producer's own flock.
Well, the bill passed easily in April 2017 — but only after the raw milk sales were removed.15 In Montana, meanwhile, House Bill 325 was voted down by the Senate. The bill would have allowed for limited sales of raw milk.16 However, efforts continue across the U.S. to expand access to raw milk and, in so doing, protect people's right to eat and drink what they please. The Durango Herald reported:17
"Efforts to legalize raw milk sales in some form have succeeded in 42 states, and expansion pushes are ongoing this year in states including Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Dakota and Texas."
State Rep. Nancy Balance, who sponsored the Montana bill, added, "It's time for the state government to get out of our kitchens and end this control of what we choose to eat and drink." Sen. Anne Gobi of Massachusetts, who sponsored a state bill that would allow farmers with 12 or fewer cows or goats to sell raw milk, further told the Herald:18
"Raw milk is one area that can help farmers to sustain and grow their dairy business … The opportunity to be able to create a larger market and better marketing ability will be a great assist to our farmers."
Your help is needed. Please DONATE NOW to support raw milk farmers and help provide funds so they can continue with the tough legal challenges that are required to fend off these government assaults against our right to quality GMO-free, soy-free and organic grassfed foods from the farmers we know and respect. To be an important part of this fight please consider helping with any amount you can.
What's Really Causing Massive Rates of Foodborne Illness?
While the CDC continues to point the finger at raw milk, the reality is that large-scale food production and global distribution means that if bacteria are present, they quickly contaminate massive batches of food, which gets widely distributed, sometimes globally. Even the dangerous and increasingly drug-resistant Clostridium difficile may be spreading via food distribution, according to preliminary research presented at the 27th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.19
The absurdity of targeting raw milk becomes even clearer when contrasted with the real culprits in many cases of food-borne illness: CAFOs. The majority of foods that are making people sick are not coming from small organic farms selling raw milk products. They're coming from CAFOs and the mega-companies that use their products, along with processed foods. Listeria may live inside the tissue of romaine lettuce leaves, which means even sanitizing it may not remove the pathogen.20
In 2017, salmonella was also detected in jalapeno-flavored potato chips21 and frozen brownies (packaged alongside frozen chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese),22 while listeria was found in frozen pizzas.23 The bottom line is that bad bugs are found in many food products during random sampling, which means, if you use the same justification used to vilify raw milk, virtually all foods would be banned.
Do You Believe in Food Freedom?
Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy whether it is raw or pasteurized, as they are allergic to the milk proteins. Additionally, if you're insulin resistant, you would likely be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk, as it contains the dairy sugar lactose, which can worsen insulin/leptin resistance.
However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk, grass fed raw milk from a high-quality source is generally superior in nutrition and flavor. It will also help to decrease the likelihood of insulin spikes from the milk sugar, courtesy of the thick layer of cream on top.
But whether you're a milk drinker or not, there's no doubt that you should have the option of choosing what to eat and from what sources. This is why the fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You or the FDA?
If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost — one day virtually all food could be pasteurized, irradiated and/or genetically engineered.
The effort to reclaim your right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts. To review the raw milk laws in your state, see Farm-to-Consumer.org's Raw Milk Nation page.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation and legislative and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
- Support your local farmers: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
As with all foods, the source matters, and this is just as true with raw milk as any other food. If you're interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources.