DALLAS, August 23, 2013 — Last week, Arkansas became the latest state to allow the sale of raw milk. Thirty three states allow the sale of unpasteurized milk to humans in some fashion, and four additional states have no law banning “herd shares” or the practice of consuming milk from animals a person owns. Individuals can buy a share in a herd or animal and legally consume raw milk from that animal.
The regulation of the sale raw milk varies greatly by state, and seventeen states ban selling raw milk outright. However, the movement is toward legalization. According to Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, 11 states allow retailers to sale raw milk. Arkansas and seventeen other states allow farm sales only. Eight states have laws allowing for the practice of herd shares, and four states that otherwise ban the sale of raw milk don’t address herd shares.
Those who drink it say raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, and it just tastes better. Many individuals who drink raw milk report that report that lactose intolerance they experienced drinking pasteurized milk disappeared upon drinking raw milk. Other health benefits are also reported, including benefits to skin and digestion.
The CDC insists that there are no health benefits to drinking raw milk rather than pasteurized milk, and the the risks are too great. They claim that although many foods carry risk of food-born illnesses, “raw milk is the riskiest of all.”
The Campaign for Real Milk website claims, “The risk of illness from all dairy foods, raw and pasteurized is very low compared to other foods—amounting to only 1 percent of all illnesses.”
According to a report by the Weston A. Price Foundation, the CDC’s own numbers don’t back up their claims of risk. “Using government figures for foodborne illness for the entire population, Dr. Beals has shown that you are about 35 thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk.”
Peter Kennedy of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund said, “Raw milk overall has a good track record for safety. It should be up to the consumers to determine for themselves what the benefits are, not the government.”
The push toward mandatory pasteurization came at the turn of the 20th century in an era of public fears of food born illnesses. A growing urban population, lack of wide-spread refrigeration, and unsanitary and unethical food handling conditions — including the use of waste products from distilleries — led to illnesses and deaths, especially among children.
The process of pasteurization was shown to reduce disease. Chicago became the first city to mandate all milk sold in the city be pasteurized in 1908. Pasteurization laws spread throughout the country over the next few decades. The federal government has banned interstate raw milk sales since 1987, with the exception of cheeses aged for 60 days and clearly labeled as unpasteurized.
According to a Center for Public Science report, leafy greens account for the greatest number of food illness outbreaks. Other foods in the top ten are eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts, and berries.
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