This is why it’s a bad idea to let lawmakers decide science

March 10th, 2016

  See this article. It’s about how in opposition to the findings of the FDA, state legislators in West Virginia recently celebrated a victory. They decided to legalize the consumption of raw milk in their state and celebrated by toasting each other with the stuff. Well, guess what happened? They all got sick and the health department is investigating. Now, before everybody gets all dogmatic and ranty, you should know that I have changed my opinion several times on the subject of raw milk cheeses vs. pasteurized or thermalized products. At the end of the day, it’s about personal choice and good information to me. You get to decide all by yourself whether or not you find the risk of consuming these products is acceptable or not. While it is certainly much riskier to consume these products, I think people should be able to find out what the realistic risks and possible benefits are. I promise to go into this more deeply in the future.
For the time being, let me be clear about what I have learned about this subject. 

1) It is certainly riskier to drink raw milk than pasteurized. Read what PubMed has to say about that here. There is much, much more scientific data about this. We’ll get to that later when I feel more confrontational. It won’t be long, my buddy calls me “Mr. Confrontation.”

2) Raw milk is not healthier than pasteurized milk in any way. Let me repeat that for the hordes of people that have heard the opposite: Raw milk is not healthier than pasteurized milk in any way!!! The loss of vitamins to heat is minuscule, the enzymes in the raw milk are not active as enzymes in a human body, and your body does not benefit from the bacteria present in raw milk.

A good primer on the subject can be found at the website of the Center for Disease Control here.

I will grant one point, which is an important one. I do think that cheese made from raw milk general tastes slightly more interesting to me. It is because of this that I think the consumer should be armed with all the information and be given the opportunity to make their own decision. After all, as risky as it may be to drink raw milk, it is far riskier to get in your car and go to work. The difference is that there aren’t any large groups of people telling you that getting in your car makes you healthy and doesn’t pose any risk at all. And remember, I still would far prefer to eat cheese made with high quality, gently pasteurized milk by an expert hand, than to eat a raw milk cheese made with low quality milk, out of season, from a sick animal, made by a beginner. It will taste better and be safer. At the end of my day, I personally don’t care very much what the Cheesemaker did to my milk, I care if I think it tastes good. And yes, I feel a bit safer eating the pasteurized stuff but as long as I know the farmers are keeping a sanitary environment and I think they’re responsible, I have no problem eating mountains of raw milk cheese.

I promise, I will go into this in painful detail later, I just really wanted to point out how it would be nice to have actual experts make health decisions for us or at least be invited to the table.
Again, thanks to the great Steven Novella at Neurologica for getting this conversation started.


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