What are your thoughts on raw milk?
– Adina Grigore
What a timely question!
A few days ago, the Food & Drug Administration officially stated that raw milk should be avoided, since it can “sicken and kill people.”
Why make that statement now? It follows “twelve confirmed cases of illness in Michigan after consumers drank raw milk from Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana.”
The FDA also points to the following statistics related to raw milk consumption, acquired between 1998 and 2008:
- 1,614 reported illnesses (my emphasis)
- 187 hospitalizations
- 2 deaths
If we break it down by year, that’s:
- 161.4 reported illnesses (my emphasis)
- 18.7 hospitalizations
- 0.2 deaths
I am not trivializing any person’s death, but consider, for instance, that 28 people died after being struck by lightning in 2008 alone (the average, by the way, is estimated at 40 deaths per year).
So, while raw milk is not some magical elixir that is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, I also don’t think it is a hands-down lethal concoction.
FYI 1: In 22 of the 50 states, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption.
FYI 2: Certain populations (individuals with compromised immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, and toddlers) need to be especially careful.
The real concern with raw milk is improper handling. It can be very easy to produce unsafe milk, since cows do not reside in the cleanest of environments.
That said, there are plenty of small farmers who take great care to produce raw milk, and certainly a good number of individuals who drink raw milk regularly and do not get food poisoning.
If raw milk is what you seek, I would check out the source very carefully.
Don’t be afraid to ask raw milk providers important questions: how long have they been producing and selling raw milk for? What precautions do they take to ensure minimal risk (with raw milk, there is never zero risk), etc.
This is a bit of a catch-22. Since the FDA does not condone raw milk consumption, don’t expect any sort of governing body to ever set standards for raw milk and make the process safer for consumers any time soon.