Demonstrators in support of Michael Schmidt milk a cow outside an Ontario courthouse last fall.

It’s evidence we need to convince the anti-raw-milk public health officials that they are misinformed. Published studies in recognized academic journals.

That’s the insistent argument from Emma G in reference to the endless legal problems dogging raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt. Raw milk opponents could be persuaded, she suggests, if only there were published studies on behalf of raw milk’s safety and benefits. She points out that raw milk proponents in Canada and the U.S. have written hundreds and hundreds of letters in support of raw milk, only to have them completely ignored by Canadian legislators and mostly ignored by American legislators. “The BIG stumbling block is the public health/food safety community pronouncing their ‘expert’ opinion that legalization/expanded-access will result in more outbreaks. The lack of published science to support our side is what is impeding our efforts to get laws changed.”

Ah yes, if only we could present “published science,” the opponents would thank proponents, we’d all sing Kumbaya and everyone would work together to change the laws so consumers could make informed choices to obtain the raw milk and other foods of their choosing.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Emma G. and others, but you’re wasting your time. You can present all the published science you want, and the opponents won’t shift in the least. I know it shouldn’t be this way. It seems perfectly logical that public health scientists should be open-minded and rational, but in real life, it doesn’t work that way.

How do I know this? There has been a good deal of published science over the last decade on the benefits of raw milk in helping reduce asthma and allergies among children. One large study of more than 8,000 European children, known as the GABRIELA study,  reported on the reduction, in a 2011 article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a well respected medical journal.

The study’s authors, scientists from highly respected medical and academic institutions around the world, were firm in their conclusions about the benefits of raw milk, and the absence of such benefits in pasteurized milk. “Reported raw milk consumption was inversely associated to asthma atopy, and hay fever independent of other farm exposures. Boiled farm milk did not show a protective effect.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is well aware of this and other similar studies. You can find its reaction is on a CDC web site: “There are no known health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk that is free of disease-causing bacteria.” It’s the exact opposite of what the study concluded.

When the experts at the CDC and its apologists at academic institutions are questioned by journalists and others, they discount the GABRIELA study because many of the children in the study lived on farms, they say, where possibly other factors of farm life, like interaction with animals, could be helping promote improved immune system function.

I have pointed out to these experts that the study explicitly states that these other factors were accounted for, and thus didn’t influence the results. As the study states: “The results of this large epidemiologic study add to the increasing body of evidence identifying consumption of farm milk (early in life) to be associated with a reduced risk of childhood asthma and allergies independently of concomitant farm exposures.” (Emphasis added)

These experts ignore the corrections, and continue to state their erroneous interpretation of the results, suggesting that the GABRIELA study wasn’t comprehensive and well constructed, and thus lacks credibility. In other words, evidence that runs counter to their ideology can’t possibly be relevant.

Part of the reason you don’t see objective published studies on the safety of raw milk is that such studies are expensive to carry out. Moreover, academics shy away from seeking funding to carry out the studies because both the academic and government communities avoid proposing them, for fear of alienating the influential processing industry. The studies that are out there suggesting raw milk isn’t safe are basically what I would term “hit jobs”—cherry-picked statistics together with questionable calculations designed to support the preconceived conclusion that raw milk is inherently unsafe, and no more beneficial to health than pasteurized milk.  One that came out recently concludes raw milk is 800 times more risky than pasteurized milk. Yeah, sure.

My advice to the idealists among readers here, located in places like Canada that ban raw milk: Get out there and continue helping farmers like Michael Schmidt make their legal cases in court, keep writing and lobbying your legislators,  and then go out and buy lots of raw milk from farmers brave enough to product it for you, outside of the bans. In the U.S., at least, all these actions have had a significant effect over the past decade, with major states like Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Maryland pulling back on bans, and allowing at least some raw milk distribution. It takes time and persistence, but positive change can and will happen. Use your time productively, instead of spinning your wheels trying to develop studies the opponents are only going to ignore or find fault with.