Nina Plank, the author of the NY Times article I commented on in this post, stopped by to comment. Rather than just having this lost in the comments to a week-old post, I wanted to take a moment and quickly address two of her points (with potentially a follow-up post next week when I have a bit more free time).
First, to Nina, thanks for stopping by. I’ll just say that I very much disagree with your stance on raw milk and dairy. Indeed, contamination can also happen after pasteurization and nothing replaces vigilance, but having seemingly healthy cows is no guarantee of healthy milk. Remember that many organisms that are harmful to us cause no disease in cattle.
Apropos of this, just since I arrived back at my computer from teaching I found these announcements in my email inbox:
Two children have been sickened by E. coli bacteria in a case associated with unpasteurized milk, the [Washington] state Health Department said Thursday.
Testing confirmed both cases were caused by the same strain of the bacteria, E.coli O157:H7 – also the strain at issue in the recent spinach recall.
The children were identified only as a King County boy and a Snohomish County girl. The boy remains hospitalized in Seattle.
“Consuming raw milk can be risky,” especially for children, the elderly and people with other health problems, said Janet Anderberg, a specialist with the agency’s Food Safety Program.
The state has revoked the milk-producing license of a western Ohio dairy farmer whose farm sold raw milk, the agriculture department said.
Farmers in Ohio cannot sell raw milk for human consumption, although they can drink the unpasteurized milk from their own cows.
Carol Schmitmeyer’s farm in Darke County also did not properly label its product and processed milk without a license to do so, the Ohio Department of Agriculture said.
Agriculture officials said they began investigating after a 63-year-old man and a 4-year-old boy who drank raw milk from the farm became ill.
State officials yesterday continued their quarantine of raw, unpasteurized milk products produced by Organic Pastures of Fresno because four children, including two 8-year-olds in San Diego County, became ill after consuming them.
The quarantine began Sept. 21 after stool samples from three of the four youngsters revealed 0157:H7, a type of E. coli bacteria. People affected by this bacteria can suffer severe diarrhea and other potentially fatal complications.
I’ll note that it’s not yet been 100% determined in this latter case that the milk was the source of the E. coli, but if it is, both of these outbreaks were completely preventable with pasteurization. If you’re so worried about losing the vitamin C from pasteurization, eat some fruit. If you want beneficial bacteria, eat some yogurt. There’s simply no justification for drinking something as potentially harmful as raw milk.
Being a skeptical sort, in every case I look for objective evidence to back up my choices – and my advice.
Yet you seemingly ignored studies which go against your statement that you “…[are] confident that reducing grain-feeding would reduce O157.” As I pointed out, results have been mixed when that was implemented, and O157 shows up even in mostly grass-fed cattle. I simply think it’s a lot more complicated than you make it out to be, as I noted in the post.