I look at the illness outbreak blamed on Texas’ largest raw dairy, and I’m mystified. It happened at a dairy with apparently impeccable cleanliness and serious attention to safety.
We don’t know much beyond what Texas health authorities say about the evidence they have, and the fact that the one case of serious illness that’s been made public involves a woman who says the milk she drank from Lavon Farms was her first experience with raw milk, coming at the suggestion of a friend.
I should preface what follows, in terms of illnesses blamed on raw milk, with the acknowledgment that I am well aware all foods make people sick. I’m also aware that as raw dairy explodes in popularity, its enemies–Big Dairy, government regulators, the public health community, and others–become ever more determined to curtail consumption, stamp out raw dairy entirely. We can see that in the totally cynical way opponents used the illnesses in Texas to try to de-rail legislation to expand raw milk availability.
When you’re under assault by forces with superior firepower, you can either stand there and take it, or you can intelligently fight back. In my view, it behooves all of us who value our food rights to fight back intelligently, and that means in part being forthright about the issues, including the issues the opponents say they are most concerned about. So I want to do some exploration around this issue of illness from raw milk, since this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the situation we’re seeing in Texas. Because it involves illness and raw dairy, it gets blown up for the purposes of fanning fear.
First off, it could be that Lavon Farms had a slip-up in its safety process, and a batch of milk became contaminated with salmonella. Anyone can slip up, even the most meticulous of food producers.
Beyond that, there’s a theme that has come up from time to time when I write about illnesses from raw milk: the very real possibility that newbies– children and adults trying raw milk for the first time, sometimes with health issues, or a combination of the two factors–are most prone to potentially serious problems from raw milk that is contaminated.
One of the challenges with trying to prove this hypothesis is that we don’t know a lot about most of the reported victims of raw milk. Their identities are protected by privacy laws. But those cases that have become public, either because they’ve filed court suits, or chosen to go public, repeatedly demonstrate this theme.
* Each of four cases highlighted on the web site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which went up last year with much fanfare, are of newbies–two adults and two children.
* All five cases highlighted on the Real Raw Milk Facts web site, another site launched last year with heavy promo, are also of first-time raw milk drinkers (three of the cases appear as well on the CDC web site, perhaps part of an intended echo effect, so it’s really two additional cases, one of an adult and one of an infant).
So of six cases that have gotten the full dramatic video treatment on web sites designed to spread fear about raw milk over the last year, all are first-time drinkers. There are a few other cases over the last few years that have similarly received much public attention–I’m thinking in particular of Lauren Herzog, a second child who became very ill in September 2006, at the same time as Chris Martin, who is featured on the CDC web site, in connection with the outbreak blamed on Organic Pastures Dairy Co.
To those cases, you can now add Mary Chiles from Texas.
I’m not suggesting that only newbies become ill from raw milk. There are a number of outbreaks–in California, Colorado, and the Midwest– in which experienced raw milk drinkers have become ill. But in none of those cases did an experienced raw milk drinker become seriously ill, from what I can determine.
For example, a survey by public health officials in California of individuals who became ill from raw milk from a Del Norte County dairy showed that six of the fifteen (40%) were first-time drinkers. As it happens, one of those first-timers became so sick she was paralyzed (and is one of those featured in the video on the Real Raw Milk Facts web site).
There is no indication that any of the nine more experienced drinkers suffered serious illness.
The public health authorities seem not to want to take notice of this anomaly. Indeed, I’ve wondered in the past why the public health community doesn’t encourage research into this situation, to try to improve the usefulness of its advisories on raw milk. The only possible answer I can come up with is that that the public health community has its mind already made up–if you believe deep in your heart that raw milk is inherently dangerous, then why do research that might muddy your thinking?
This is an extremely important matter because the public health and medical communities point to the dramatic cases featured on the CDC and Real Raw Milk Facts web sites as proof positive that raw milk is so inherently dangerous that no one in his or her right mind should be drinking it. But more significant, these cases are used to justify federal and state crackdowns on raw dairies, and as key evidence to defeat state legislation allowing for limited availability of raw milk. As such, the cases are highly damaging to raw dairy farmers of all types, jeopardizing their livelihoods, and jeopardizing as well the availability of raw milk to millions of regular drinkers.
If, indeed, the situation is more nuanced–that there is a very slight danger of serious illness for some individuals who have never before consumed raw milk–then dairy farmers might press harder on the safety front. And public health authorities may well need to adjust their warnings, targeting them to those individuals.
If the public health community isn’t doing its job–in fact, is misrepresenting the reality–then how can people interested in raw milk learn about the reality? How about if raw dairy producers and proponents take the lead? Here’s what I mean:
There’s the matter of implementing safety standards. A number of people here, like Tim Wightman, Mark McAfee, and Scott Trautman, have discussed organizing a raw milk association that would establish standards and monitor member dairies. Maybe it’s time for that effort to move forward.
In addition, I’m thinking that farmers should consider issuing strong warnings beyond the general ones they already use, to advise new customers about the potential dangers of raw milk. Moreover, they might consider as well advising regular customers not to give raw milk to friends or neighbors who have never before had it.
And consumers need to accept responsibility to check out raw milk producers in terms of their safety precautions, and the special qualities of their milk. David Augenstein, a public health expert and raw milk proponent, puts it this way in a new publication he’s just put out, “Finding Your Safe Local Raw Milk”:
“If you are lacto-intolerant, a first time raw milk drinker or changing to another dairy, it is recommended to acclimatize your body and build immunity for the microorganisms specific to the dairy’s ecosystem that varies from dairy to dairy. To do this, begin with half a cup of milk, yogurt or kefir each day for about a week. This will reduce the risk of stomach upset or diarrhea that could be experienced by some people.”
The larger suggestion I am making here is that the raw milk community take the lead in being upfront about the danger of raw milk illnesses in certain narrow situations. For example, it might make sense for farmers to speak with anyone trying raw milk for the first time, and inquire into their decision to begin drinking raw milk; most farmers know their customers well. Ask if they have any illnesses or conditions that might have depressed their immune systems. Ask if they have made any other changes to their diet in terms of nutrient-dense foods.
On this last point, I have a friend who has read some of my writing about raw milk, and occasionally asks me if I think he should drink it. I know he mostly consumes the standard American diet, and emphasizes low-fat foods, so I’ve told him that, no, I don’t think raw milk makes sense for him. To me, you consume raw milk as part of a larger decision to change your approach to diet and health–to eliminate processed foods and sugar and to seek out nutrient-dense foods. You don’t do it in isolation.
Those of us who value food rights need to make this point more emphatically. Raw milk isn’t a magical medicine people suddenly begin gulping down to cure MS or cancer. It may well be useful in aiding such conditions, but usually part and parcel of a larger, more holistic approach.
Moreover, it’s not appropriate to ignore or deny the serious illnesses that are so damaging to both the health of the individuals affected, and the reputations of the farmers who are held responsible. The illnesses need to be acknowledged and used to teach, rather than used as a political football. ?
This same could be said for medications/vaccinations, etc. It is rare that a lay person reads the insert that comes with medications (are they even offered the inserts?). Do MDs read them? There is always the potential for an adverse reaction to anything.
"public health authorities may well need to adjust their warnings, targeting them to those individuals."
yes, they should inform all truthfully.
"If the public health community isn't doing its job–in fact, is misrepresenting the reality–"
They won't learn the truth/reality. It is implied that foods low in fat/calories are "healthy". The added chemicals (etc) are totally ignored. These misrepresentings are nothing more than out-right lies.
"consumers need to accept responsibility to check out raw milk producers in terms of their safety precautions, and the special qualities of their milk."
Shouldn't consumers take this same responsibility for themselves in all aspects of their lives?
Why is it only a few of those who are 1st time raw milk consumers that get sick. Why don't all 1st time drinkers become ill? It had been over 30 years for me, between consuming raw milk, as the same for my sisters, none of us became ill. But then, none of us are much for consuming processed foods.
David, I would have made the same response to your friend. It is an individuals right to choose what they wish to consume.
You are starting to knock on the door of real food safety pioneering concepts. At OPDC on our FAQ area we touch on the use of baby steps to gradually add raw milk into a persons diet. Perhaps we can even more. It is such a serious neglect of human need that the CDC and NIH do not fund work that follows Peer Bork and his work on bacteria ecosystem classification etc. Who knows with all the antibiotic abuse going on, this could be the link to a test for raw milk immunity risk profiling. ???
We all know why this is not happening.
I had a young man named David visit OPDC today with a skin lesion on his leg. It appeared after he had a round of heavy anti biotics two years ago in college. Now this auto immune disorder defies all treatment with drugs and he also has IBS. He moved to CA specifically to be able to drink colostrum and raw milk kefir every day. I took pictures of the lesion and our entire staff witnesses his 2.5 inch diameter skin redness and scaling problem.
This is the face of the raw milk drinker. This is the face of the side effects of modern medicine this is the face of who should be warned not to drink raw milk.
Now you see the chicken and egg and the catch 22. This person sought out raw dairy on his own and knows exactly what he is doing.
In my assessment having lived so close to this fire is this, there are risks in drinking raw dairy. Yes there is. But they are very small and made extremely s
small by food safety standards and inspctions etc. Those who appose standards and raw milk have an agenda. That agenda ignores the benefits and grossly exaggerates the minute risks.
With all this fuss. We will end up with raw milk being the safest food in America. While spinach and icrecream remain risky killers. Weird sense of priorities with us strange humans on earth.
As a cheese maker, raw milk with an SPC of 10,000/mL is going to produce a more flavorful cheese than the super-clean milk that Mark and a few others are producing, but there are inherint protections against pathogens in the cheesemaking process. When we are talking about fluid drinking milk, its a different story…
I know this doesn't make me the most popular around here, but that is why I really do believe in the superiority of cheese as a way to deliver the nutrients in milk. It is more durable, more flavorful, and it concentrates the most important parts of milk (the protein and fat) into a much smaller volume and weight. IMO, drinking raw milk is really only meant for people who live in the vicinity of dairy farms. It is highly perishable. For distant markets, that is why you make cheese.
There is a reason that 90% of Wisconsin milk is turned into cheese. We didn't get the reputation as America's Dairyland for nothing. There used to be a cheese factory on every crossroads in rural Wisconsin.
I dont believe its possible to produce any food that is safe for children if we continue to assault their immune systems with vaccines, antibiotics and fever suppressant drugs etc.
My youngest son who is eight years of age has a friend who comes over to visit almost every other weekend. The first thing he asks for upon his arrival is for a glass of milk. In fact he drinks several glasses throughout the course of the day and in his words this milk really tastes good.
This is just one small example of the multitude of individuals who have come to visit the farm and who have taken the opportunity to drink fresh raw milk, (many of them for the first time) from school bus loads of children, to Canada World Youth exchange students, relatives and friends.
Being a late comer to this blog you may not be familiar with an experience I share on September 12, 2007.
When I brought the twins home from the hospital and since they no longer had a mother to nurse them the only natural and viable alternative as far as I was concerned was to feed them raw milk mixed with raw honey and fresh water from the well. All three of the above ingredients are considered taboo and shunned by the majority of experts and would have still only been marginally accepted if I had pasteurized or sterilized them. Jacob was a little over 4lbs and Angela was slightly over 5lbs at the time. They had been receiving formula in the hospital for the first ten days of their life.
Being infants and premature Ill ask you as well what was the status of their immune system?
They are now twenty four years of age and have never seen a doctor nor have they been vaccinated or received drugs of any kind since their birth.
I agree fully with Marian Anderson, Fear is a disease that eats away at logic.
However, the reality is that we live in a society with so many immune-depressed people, and this includes many potential new consumers of raw milk will have just such a system, so extra precautions are neccessary in production and monitoring of raw milk for direct consumption.
Hopefully we can reach the day when immune depression is a problem of the past, and we don't need to worry so much anymore. But this is the reality we live in, like it or not. We can choose to keep our heads in the sand, or we can do something about it!
I was raised on a dairy farm and drank raw milk for 20 years. I was healthy with a good immune system not only because of what I was drinking and how I was living but also because of the spirit involved.
Whenever someone new came to the milk stand asking question, I would always preface whatever I was going to say with, "I biased" Then I would explain the above.
I would go into what I felt the benefits were and that MOST, not ALL would respond to the dairy products in a positive way.
I would then give them a list of sites to check out on their own along with my opinions about each.
-Real Milk/Weston Price – tend to be fanatical
-The Complete Patient – Most comprehensive and objective. Gives good information about the politics of raw milk throughout the country
-Nina Planck – Presents raw dairy in a good light – also woman/mom friendly and not so
-Cheeseslave – written by mom with child who had issues re: dairy
I can't speak for women or mom's because i am not one. If they were pregnant or new moms, I would also give out phone numbers/e-mail addresses f friends that they could contact. They would have a different intimacy with them rather than with me.
I gave them information that I felt was important and left the choice up to them. They then would usually ask for sample on their own.
It's not my style to overwhelm with charisma. Pure and hearsay statements cause trouble. I would do my best to not give out information that I could not verify via experience. And if they decided then and there to purchase or not they were impressed and appreciative of the sincerity shown to them.
I have theories as to why raw is "bad" for some and not for others. I will only share these with people I am face to face with. I still feel based on my experience that for people who are predisposed for it to be an issue, it will be. And for those who it's not, it won't
"FDA investigators determined during an inspection of Rainbow Acres Farm that the farm was producing, packaging, selling, and distributing unpasteurized and unlabeled milk for human consumption in interstate commerce."
When hand washing and decent sanitation was incorporated into birthing centers, this maternal death rate dropped quickly. But still, moms died in childbirth at ( when compared to todays world ) relatively high rates of 2 in 100 births. A walk through any old cemetery shows the toll.
Now moms seldom die….but there is a 32% C-Section rate ( some data from Local CA birthing centers ). This in combination with early ( with in 24 hours of birth ) over vaccination, use of antibiotics, sugar based baby formula, sterilized formula, preservatives in processed foods, and lack of breast feeding…. modern society has made a deal with the devil…moms do not die, but kids are immune wrecked.
Now we have autism, autoimmune illness, allergies, asthma, IBS, arthritis, diabetes, etc…in our kids, and moms that would have historically died in child birth now live to birth and birth again and again. We have short circuted natural selection and replaced it with carefree lack of personal responsibility and obesity and diabetes.
The correlations are loose on my argument, but the world now is over crowding and humans are over producing for a multitute of reasons. One of them being the effective birth rate and the sick surviving due to modern medicine heriocs. It is a sort of Human GMO effect. Babies and moms that would have died off, now live and propogate. We are screwing arround with Darwin and natural selection. No new news to this crowd. To speak to the contrary would make a person seem like Hitler or worse….it is in conflict with Christian humanity.
So goes humanity….but this humanity will only work sustainably with the introduction of personal responsibility. There must be a new deal….
This deal must include honest science and education. Education that tells moms the truth about their actions and diets and lack of excercise and somehow impose some consequences.
All about the truth and personal responsibility. So….I do not have much faith in this new deal for most people. It will be the bright and the conscious that depart from the herd and go the better direction. The rest….well, they made a deal with the devil.
You Teach You Teach You Teach….I speak with 40 people tonight in Riverside at a doctors office. Many of the patients are moms with small children. Kids thrive on raw milk….
I will make sure that everyone is well informed about Peer Bork's work and the GUT ecosystem and baby steps and antibiotics, CDC data, and the rare but potential risks of not drinking raw milk and drinking raw milk. Yes….there is a risk to not drinking raw milk.
It is the truth and that is what I try and speak.
A world of conflict and change…a world of personal choice and seeking the truth.
The poles of future progress are located at opposite ends of the spectrum….soon this will be more and more obvious as the truth spreads and the outcomes of those that take personal responsibility and eat well are shown more and more. Google and the internet will expose this truth.
But will it be appreciated and consumed or awaken the unconscious???
Admit guilt…plead guilty…do not spend money on attorneys…declare victory and stay in business selling raw milk to your neighbors inside the state. Then it becomes an issue of penalty, CFR 1240.61 has little as to the penalty or fine or criminal issues. Gary Cox did a great job with us three years ago on this same issue.
You need to get a better distributor that does not incriminate you. Once the raw milk is sold off to someone else….what they do with it is not your business. Your sole obligation is to assure that you notify the distributor effectively that all raw products must be sold inside the same state.
I have already been there. You do not fight with the FDA. They have the money printing presses and the very cute young sexy attorneys. You do not want to play their kind of Russian Roulette in the judicial system. Outcomes are unpredictable and all outcomes cost a fortune to even get to.
Cut a deal and stay in business. Learn from this and if you are going to take it across state lines learn to be a better, smarter, stealthier drug dealer. That is how they see you and will treat you. No thanks. I want no part of that.
I thank god everyday that CA has 35 million people in it with laws like Food and Ag code 35928 ( F ) that assures access to raw milk for Californians.
commentators on this blog are too kind, accepting that the health Nazis are telling the Truth
with the material I'm receiving lately via Freedom of Information requests, I can now prove that the authorities in British Columbia outright lied, in a sustained campaign in 2009/2010, to slander our raw milk dairy, in order to demonize all raw milk producers in the province.
My 10 years' experience on this issue – and on other even more contentious political issues – taught me that playing dirty is NORMAL for the govt. They exploit the fact that ordinary people, of good will, initially extend them the benefit of the doubt
Other than her say-so, where is any evidence of a connection between this Mary Chiles' illness, and a batch of milk produced by the raw milk side of the dairy … months ago?
On any other issue, such a flimsy nexus whold be laughed out of the room
" Orthorexics: Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods. Some limit themselves to raw foods."
labels are tossed about like to winds currently blowing in Arkansas….. So those who are or have chosen to eat healthy unprocessed phoods have mental issues LMAO.
You are correct that we extend many government agencies, such as those involved in public health and police work, the benefit of the doubt, at least when it comes to reporting the accuracy of laboratory tests. But I agree we shouldn't accept everything on blind trust, and should seek out corroborating information…especially in a situation like that in Texas, where there has been obvious misuse of information.
Bassler is my hero…until the last part of her presentation. Then she goes crazy. She suggests playing GOD and turning off the chemistry that lets bacteria communicate. If we are 98% bacteria in our human formation. That is homocidal.
That is in my humble opinion, a recipe for fooling arround with life on earth…..it is GMO on steroids. It is like making the bacteria in our bodies stupid and dumb ( autistic bacteria in our bodies— literally )…..because they just exist in a aimless monocultural non-voting existance and unable to "quorum sense". Can you imagine a human body that becomes a stupid functionless blob because 98% of the body no longer functions.
Lets just use her information to understand nature and in better ways cooperate with nature and prevent illness through nutrition etc…. Not… to once again allow irresponsible people to be saved from their " do anything, take anything, eat anything, sit all day long" irresponsible behaviors.
Stop f……..with nature. Start understanding nature. Start engaging the forces of nature for the good of all mankind.
Just my two cents.
I tend to agree with Mark, humans have a tendency of using the limited knowledge they have acquired and run with it failing to consider all of the consequences.
Our fear of disease coupled with superstition, an antagonistic attitude towards the organisms that are presumed to be responsible and a little knowledge has caused us to run amok in our attempt to gain the upper hand.
I posted the link about halfway through watching it. I hadn't gotten to the part where she gets wacky. We all know there are going to be unintended consequences for the high-tech GMO solutions she is proposing.
Don't feel bad. I use Bonnie Bassler MIT information and science all the time. Her science is the reason that probiotics and biodiverisity is so critical and why raw milk works to rebuild missing bacteria DNA in the body and human genome. It is awesome. It is her final "Monsatan" type application of the knowledge that her team developed that is totally scary. I mean really scary. Can you imagine a chemical or biologic agent that was developed to cause bacterial communication retardation???
If it got loose, it would make Ecoli 0157H7 look like a first degree sunburn in comparison. At least Ecoli 0157H7 can vote and it takes a quorum to do anything. If bacteria good and bad can not quorum sense and help humans be complete and healthy, that means 98% of the DNA in the Human genome goes stupid.
What does PhD stand for again….somebody please remind me???!!
Common sense is uncommon!!!
"But, based on the four North Texas cases that are not all connected to the same Dairy Farm, the Texas Medical Association and the Dallas County Health Department are issuing alerts about the potential dangers of unpasteurized products."
Out of all the people that drink milk from this dairy, why only 4 become ill? Chiles words sound like she was prompted on what to say. Why doesn't the state tell the strain to the farmer and public? Salmonella with no diarrhea- they need to retest for the correct cause. Salmonella invades the bowel wall…thus causing diarrhea. Perhaps she ate sprouts?
http://books.google.com/books?id=bIZvJPcSEXMC&pg=PA507&lpg=PA507&dq=salmonella+with+no+diarrhea&source=bl&ots=aswPrGrVge&sig=6tlXQ-0OMmmmlbvtxRvOtoagrac&hl=en&ei=Om-5Tf6MM4-5tgenmPneBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCEQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=salmonella%20with%20no%20diarrhea&f=false (page 507)
I think a discussion would be enlightening.We are living with standards that focus on the presence of "pathogens" in the milk.The absence of these "pathogens' is our goal.
What is it that makes a micro organism a "pathogen"?
I would like to see us frame the discussion differently.All micro organisms,for that matter, all organisms create waste products.If the waste products are not used by some other part of the community they do build up to the point that they are toxic to the local community.In this view all organisms can be seen as pathogens .Rather than seeing that micro organism as the problem,why not see that the lack of an organism that can recycle the waste product is the problem?From this point of view the solution is to add organisms to the system and increase biodiversity.I hope we agree that greater biodiversity leads to increased stability which is the definition of health.Do we need to test for biodiversity in our milk producing environment?
Should our standards be designed to lead to ever greater biodiversity on the farm?What does this mean for the use of systems that depend on the use of strong chemicals to clean difficult to get at spots in the equipment?What temperature is best for holding the milk at until it is consumed and how long can it be held until it is consumed if it is to be consumed as "fresh" milk?
I hope we can approach the safety of food from a systemic point of view and not rely on the old paradigm of "blame disease on one organism in the system" rather than on an imbalance that requires increasing diversity in the system.
I will make a prediction here. Based on Peer Borks work that shows that the first bacteria to reach the gut tend to dominate and reign supreme over late comers in less than ten years progressive birthing centers will give new borns a GI flush of a mix of colostrum and selected cultures of beneficial bacteria that mirror the best birth canal bacteria from a healthy mother specimen
Just a prediction. We already do this with calves to improve immunity.
If the best bacteria reach the gut first and we feed that bacteria with good breast milk. We will have achieved primary dominance of the right bacteria colonizing first.
"The report names Salmonella as the leading disease-causing microorganism (costing more than $3 billion a year), and Salmonella-contaminated produce, poultry, eggs and multi-ingredient foods all rank in the top 10 food-pathogen combinations.
"Other top-ranked combinations include Listeria in deli meats and soft cheeses, Toxoplasma in pork and beef, E. coli in beef and produce, and norovirus in multi-ingredient food products."
Note that raw milk was not listed anywhere.