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Why does an avid band of devotees swear by the virtues of unpasteurized milk?

Washington Post reporter Thomas Bartlett wrote about raw milk and the group of people who "swear by the virtues" of unpasteurized milk in an October 1st article.

In Maryland, where I live, as in most other states, you can’t walk into a store and buy raw milk. That’s because, while possession of raw milk is legal, selling it is a crime. It’s also a violation of federal law to transport raw milk across state lines with the intent to sell it for human consumption. The Tennessee dairy that sold it to me offers raw milk as pet food. The dairy’s Web site warns that "due to significant legal and liability issues, we cannot and will not answer questions regarding human consumption of these or any other raw milk products — please don’t ask."

Barrett mentions that in a conversation with a Maryland health official raw milk was compared to heroin or marijuana.

The raw milk underground isn’t for the faint of heart. Some who believe raw milk is nature’s perfect food have to break — or find creative ways to skirt — state and federal laws. Then they have to ignore the warnings of medical associations and government agencies that rank drinking raw milk alongside BASE jumping and gas huffing. The Food and Drug Administration even compares it to playing Russian roulette. And yet there are thousands of folks all over the country who eagerly seek out raw milk, even though it can be expensive, difficult to obtain and — oh, yes — illegal to sell. In some states, health agencies are cracking down on raw milk suppliers.

Barrett interviewed researchers from the FDA and learned the FDA’s position:  "The FDA says raw milk advocates ignore science and put their faith in dubious anecdotes about its supposed health benefits."

He goes on to write that "The triumph of pasteurization seems like a victory for human progress." 

So why do so many people swear by drinking raw milk???

  • This really is a rather silly question, and you’ll never be satisfied with an answer that doesn’t include some research study, but I’ll bite. My guess is that people that switch to raw milk notice improvements in their health as a result. These folks don’t just one day decide to start drinking it raw, but rather they have researched their particular health issues and decided that raw milk might be an answer. After learning about the ways to minimize the risks of raw milk, these folks give it a try. When they don’t keel over, and in fact start feeling better, they are sold. The “anecdotal evidence” you and others so lightly dismiss is real because these people are experiencing it.
    I find it odd that in this and your other blogs you rail against raw milk, yet the outbreaks you report on are from other food sources. I haven’t read any post of yours calling for the prohibition of fruits, vegetables, and meats responsible for those outbreaks.
    The issue here is choice. As an educated consumer, I should have the right to purchase the food I desire. Put a label on it like cigarettes or alcohol if you like, but I’m making an informed decision. I don’t need a nanny telling me what I can and can’t do.
    You’re looking at one side of the issue, and given the tone of this post, I wonder if you’re sincere in wanting an answer to your question.

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