December 29, 2005
Boca Raton News
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana.
Boca Raton Pediatrician Dr. Adam Cutler agrees, saying that if any local parents choose to go outside of established health protocols “then they’re taking risks into their own hands.”
Health care officials, and even some local people who were alive in early part of the 20th century will of course remember when it was the norm to obtain, store and then consume whole milk without it ever becoming any warmer than what it was before leaving the cow.
Louis Pasteur discovered in the 1860’s that microorganisms in wine, beer and milk caused illness; in turn, he discovered that heating those fluids to about 132 degrees Fahrenheit would kill those organisms.
The process came to be known as “pasteurization” and for the last 160 years or so, has saved countless lives.
Enter the last 20 years when, and according to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a segment of the population seems to have forgotten that pasteurization is used for a good reason – “to protect health,” said Dr. Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., and ACSH Director of Nutrition.
As part of the “misguided alternative health movement,” she said, “some have bought into the myth that raw milk is nutritionally and otherwise superior to milk that has been processed in any way.”
Some parents also have “unwarranted fears,” she said, “of genetically-engineered hormones given to cows to prolong lactation.
Neither of these myths is true; but that hasn’t stopped the proliferation of farms that will provide the unwary with supposedly beneficial raw milk.”
Illnesses related to unpasteurized milk have been reported recently in Oregon and Pennsylvania. Dr. Cutler told the Boca News he was “not aware” of any such cases locally, or of such milk being given to any area children.
Unpasteurized milk and its byproducts, such as cheese and yogurt, can carry a range of germs, including the bacteria E. coli O157:H7. Those infections can cause a life-threatening kidney problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, especially in young children.
Human illnesses that have been caused by consumption of raw milk and cheese made from raw milk include fever, Salmonella dublin infection, staphylococcal food poisoning, brucellosis, campylobacter infection, salmonellosis, C. ulcerans sore throat, and listeriosis. Adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriages, fetal infections, and death have been associated with these illnesses, says the Florida Registry of Birth Defects.
As for milk itself, ACSH says, “milk is a nutritious food, an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin D and a good source of protein, vitamin A, potassium, and several B vitamins.”
Although milk provides many nutrients, “it’s especially important as a source of calcium and vitamin D,” ACSH adds.
ACSH says that other, less life-threatening claims against milk are also false. An ACSH position paper entitled “What’s the Story? The Role of Milk in Your Diet” says the following:
“Some extremist groups have claimed that milk is not a good food for infants and children. They also contend that milk should not be included in official dietary guidelines because of the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among U.S. minority groups. In addition, they claim that milk can cause or contribute to a wide variety of health problems-including heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, allergies, and infant colic-and that hormones in milk are causing early puberty in girls.
Suitability for Infants and Children: The milk that you buy in the grocery store is not suitable for infants. During the first year of life, it is best for infants to drink human milk (that is, to be breastfed). The only acceptable alternative to human milk is infant formula. The most commonly used formulas are based on cows’ milk proteins, but the milk is extensively modified to support the nutritional needs of infants. Unmodified cows’ milk is not appropriate for infants during their first year because the amounts and proportions of nutrients that it contains are very different from the amounts present in human milk or infant formula.
“For children over the age of one year, cows’ milk is an excellent food.
Of course, like all other foods, milk doesn’t provide all the nutrients that a child needs. For good nutrition, children need foods from each of the major food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat/meat alternatives). Milk should be only one component of a balanced diet.
Minority Groups and Lactose Intolerance. It is true that lactose maldigestion (the loss of the ability to produce the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose after early childhood) is more common among people of African, Asian, Native American, or Mediterranean heritage than among those of northern or western European origin. However, people with lactose maldigestion do not necessarily experience symptoms of intolerance after consuming usual amounts of milk.”
Boca’s Dr. Cutler says: “The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends pasteurization of milk to avoid problems.”
However, if parents “disregard these recommendations, then they’re taking risks into their own hands.”
John Johnston can be reached at 561-549-0833, or at firstname.lastname@example.org