A majority of states prohibit sale of raw milk or restrict its sale, due to concerns over foodborne illness. It would be safe to say, however, that not all consumers agree about the issue of consumption of raw milk. Some consumers simply believe that raw milk is better for them. Others would be outraged if the government was to authorize the sale of raw milk and someone got sick, as that authorization would be deemed by them to be a seal of approval for the safety of the product. Before the invention and acceptance of pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses. These illnesses killed many people each year, especially young children. It does not seem to be a bone of contention whether milk that is not pasteurized can cause illness, only that the product should be made available to those who want it, regardless of the risk. Those who like its perceived benefits want the choice, e.g., they believe that raw milk tastes better and may reduce susceptibility to allergens and asthma; other health benefits are often touted by proponents, but they remain unproven. Our governmental system doesn’t provide for a category of foods that are labeled “buyer beware,” especially not for products that can be pasteurized to eliminate substantial risk.
We learned last week that Organic Pastures, the nation’s largest raw milk dairy and located in California, has sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not acting on the dairy’s formal petition for the agency to change its current restrictions banning interstate sales of raw milk. Yet, in an article in Food Safety News, the president of the dairy, Mark McAfee, indicated “he’s not asking for raw milk to be allowed across every state line in all cases because ‘sloppily produced raw milk can be dangerous.’ He [also]…thinks there should be some universal standards for raw milk.” Without adequate protections to assure safety of a product in the milk case of our grocery stores, the hue and cry of the majority of American consumers will demand that the government assure safety. As an example, apple juice is another area where pasteurization over the “liquid in its pure state” has reduced a majority of consumers’ health concerns yet irritated others because it “simply doesn’t taste as good.” Additional information regarding this topic is available on the CDC website.
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