Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York UniversityThe recent raids of private buying clubs–notably the one of Rawesome Foods in Venice, CA, last month– have drawn even more media inquiring about raw milk, and there was quite a lot of media attention prior to the first of this month.

While the main focus of the articles up until now has been on safety, two major media items on National Public Radio suggest an effort to provide additional nuance to the subject. One on Sunday used interviews with Rawesome members to explore the perceived benefits of nutrient-dense food, and the dangers of factory food. 

The report observed: “But there’s a lot of nutritional value raw foodists say they get from raw meat and milk, too. Omega 3 fatty acids, for example, which promote brain and heart health. Certain ‘friendly’ bacteria that promote immunities, too. Pasteurization destroys that bacteria, plus a lot of the vitamins and proteins raw foodists want.”

Then on Tuesday, I was interviewed for a segment on raw milk on the NPR program “Here and Now”, by Robin Young, a knowledgeable journalist and skillful interviewer. (To access the segment, scroll down to the photos of raw milk, and click on “Listen”.) Once again, there was some serious attention paid to the subject of the nutritional benefits of raw milk (in addition to questions about safety). I pointed to a major European study published in 2006 concluding that raw milk likely reduces the incidence of allergies and asthma in young children.

For the record, that study says, “In conclusion, the results of the present study indicate that consumption of farm milk is associated with a lower risk of childhood asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis.” It adds: “A deepened understanding of the relevant ‘protective’ components of farm milk and a better insight into the biological mechanisms underlying the reported epidemiological observation are warranted as a basis for the development of a safe product for prevention.” 

When I brought up the study during my interview Tuesday, Robin Young said that Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and a prominent writer about food nutrition and safety, has expressed doubts about the scientific validity of the study (and about the nutritional benefits of raw milk in general). I said that at a minimum, that large study warranted additional experimental work. Think about it: If a pharmaceutical company said it had come up with a pill to reduce the incidence of asthma and allergies by 25%, don’t you think everyone would be all over it?

But for some reason, when it comes to raw milk, the germophobes won’t hear of the possibility that raw milk could improve the health of drinkers. When hundreds of people testify at legislative hearings about how their health improved from drkinking raw milk, it’s labeled “anecdotal.” When a huge study comes out supporting the nutritional benefits of raw milk, it’s flawed. And the ultimate opposition fallback position is that it would be “ethically” irresponsible to use people as research subjects, given raw milk’s “dangers” (they’ll say this in deep serious tones, as if the drug companies don’t test their new drugs, which really are dangerous, on humans). Dependent as these scholars are on government and Big Pharma and other such grants and consulting contracts, the answer is always the same: get rid of raw milk.

Maybe all the media people trying to figure out why there’s so much consumer interest in raw milk might try questioning the opponents who revel in every hint of illness possibly attributable to raw milk as to why they don’t back real research. Maybe these opponents are afraid of the results.