The vultures are circling in force with news that an Australian three-year-old may have died from drinking raw milk. 


This is news raw milk opponents have lusted after for many years, and now they mean to use it for full effect, tying it to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that suggests illnesses from raw milk are rising.  Even though raw milk is already highly restricted in Australia, there are calls for a complete ban now that raw milk has been “proven” by this death to be unacceptably risky. 


But the news reports are confusing. Some are saying that the boy’s death, together with four illnesses from complications of E.coli O157:H7, are from different brands of raw milk. 


Most intriguing, the farmer accused of producing the milk that led to the three-year-old boy’s death says he has been told the child was seriously ill before drinking raw milk. The child’s parents may have been providing raw milk in hopes of improving the child’s health. 


On the Facebook page of the Australia Alliance for Raw Milk, a statement from Mountain View Organics’ owner, (identified elsewhere as Vicki Jones) says, “I do want to tell you that the little child that passed away was seriously ill, and as I understand, his mother was advised by an alternative therapist, to give him the milk to help his condition. There was no evidence to suggest that the milk caused him to pass away.” 


She adds, “Apparently the paper quoted me as saying that parents are irresponsible, giving their children raw milk. I did not say this.”


It’s tricky to try to report on serious illnesses close at hand, let alone those half way around the globe. But it’s not uncommon for parents unable to get help from the established medical system to seek out healthy food. I have had any number of farmers and parents tell me stories about how they have sought out raw milk to help their children recover from everything from eczema to asthma to cancer. Some of these stories have happy endings. Some don’t. 

This is an unfolding story. There will be all kinds of media efforts to link it to that new CDC study I linked to above that argues illnesses from raw milk have increased in recent years. The study actually has some potentially useful information for farmers and consumers seriously seeking ways to reduce the risks of unsafe raw milk. Unfortunately, the study is presented by the CDC as a political tool, seeking primarily to encourage states to make raw milk more difficult, or even impossible, to obtain. The idea seems to be to push raw milk further underground than it is in many places, and make it ever less regulated. The Australian dairy in question was selling raw milk as “bath milk,” to get around prohibitions. 

The subject of raw milk stirs deep emotions in many people, especially when children are sickened. As we know well from other cases involving illness and raw milk, the powers that be love to exploit those emotions, even if it means taking us way off track from the real challenges associated with ensuring safe milk supplies.