Last Thursday, I highlighted food poisoning lawyer Bill Marler’s seeming suggestion in his planned presentation to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s raw milk symposium that the Weston A. Price Foundation could be in his line of sight for legal action if illnesses result because it advises consumers to drink raw milk.
Well, it turns out that Marler’s broadside against the Weston A. Price Foundation was probably the milder of the criticisms lodged against the organization. Upset about its approach in actively encouraging raw milk consumption was a definite subplot at the symposium.
Probably four or five of the anti-raw-milk presenters at the symposium featured website snapshots of the front page of the RealMilk web site (see above). At least a couple included lists of all the benefits the Weston A. Price Foundation ascribes to raw milk.
The benefit that came under the most criticism was that pathogens can’t survive in milk from pasture-fed cows. “Raw milk is a very good carrier of human pathogens,” countered one presenter who highlighted the “benefit.”
Another presenter quoted critically from a 2004 letter on the “Safety of Raw Milk” on the site: “When cows are not stressed (grass-fed and kept healthy) they simply do not slough off pathogens in their manure.” Letter on the “Safety of Raw Milk,” Real Milk website (5/19/04)
Even the presentation by raw milk advocate Amanda Rose relied heavily on the benefits of raw milk listed by the Weston A. Price site. Her survey of raw milk drinkers listed 13 statements about raw milk, including “Raw milk is a food that is uniquely safe,” and “Pasteurized milk causes lactose intolerance, and “Pasteurized milk has all of the vitamins cooked out of it.” Such statements received heavy favorable endorsements from survey participants. The statement that received the least support was this from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Drinking raw milk is like playing Russian roulette with your health.”
A number of participants expressed admiration for the Weston A. Price’s ability to promote its viewpoint. One noted that if you type “raw milk” into Google, five of the first six citations are from the Weston A. Price Foundation. “How do we get that kind of attention?” asked one anti-raw-milk opponent. “We don’t have an advertising budget.”
I didn’t want to tell him, but such high rankings on Google aren’t a function of ad budgets—they are a function of link exchanges, traffic, and other such factors.
The dumping on WAPF was a reminder of several things. First, it reminds us how little objective information is out there on the Internet about raw milk. The WAPF’s information may be inaccurate in certain places, and overly enthusiastic in others, but it fills a void created by the fear mongering of the FDA and the CDC.
Second, it reminds us of the WAPF’s responsibility in providing accurate information. One of the attendees at the AVMA raw milk symposium was Mary McGonigle-Martin, the mother of Chris Martin, a seven-year-old who became very ill during the fall of 2006, allegedly from raw milk. During a discussion at the end of the symposium about the WAPF site, Mary said, “I was one of those educated parents that almost killed my child. I got to the Weston A. Price site” and saw reassuring information about raw milk’s safety, she said. Another participant said, “I’d love to see there (on the WAPF site) information…that raw milk can contain these pathogens.”
The organization may have been unduly hammered, but some of the criticisms are worth the organization’s attention as its influence expands to fill the growing interest in raw milk.