Yours truly enjoying a glass of raw milk at a fondue restaurant in Switzerland last month. You read through The Wall Street Journal article yesterday about the European efforts to reign in raw milk vending machines, and you realize that raw milk is, indeed, becoming a worldwide issue. It’s an issue in Canada, New Zealand, England, and now in Italy, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and others of the European Union.

And to read that Italy is a center of the regulatory effort, shutting down vending machines and requiring huge warning signs on those that remain in operation, well, you know there have to be outside forces at work to get the Italians to clamp down. And with no urgent public health problems providing the urgency, what might be providing the stimulus?

I was just there for a week and I can say, based even on a very limited view, that they don’t pay attention to much in terms of public safety unless something external is going on. My main exposure to Italian regulation was in a number of train stations, and everywhere I looked, people were on their own. Basic public services like elevators and escalators didn’t work, and there was no warning signage and no one seemed to care.

My wife and I rode a train for two-and-a-half hours from its home station to the end, with no announcement of the train departing, no ventilation on board the train, and no sign of any service people, or even a conductor to collect tickets. And passengers weren’t the least bit fazed. The only thing I know for sure is that someone was driving the train, because it left and arrived sort of on time.

One thing that still works, and works well, is the food. It is delicious. Wonderful traditional food made from fresh ingredients is still widely available. Italian regulators know better than to mess with people’s food, yet here they are messing with people’s raw milk.

So I figure if the Italians are going after raw milk, it must be because business interests are prodding them, or maybe just out and out paying them off.  Maybe it’s Parmalat? That’s the huge Italian dairy company, once Europe’s equivalent of Dean Foods. There was a big bribery scandal there a decade ago that pretty much flattened the company and put its top execs in jail, but it has since been taken over by a French conglomerate, and is still considered a worldwide dairy powerhouse.

You have to remember that the American monopoly, Dean Foods, is an international player, trying to export ever more of that pasteurized milk that Americans aren’t drinking.

After all, they are all reading the same research results we all have been reading, about how raw milk protects against asthma and allergies. And now there is yet another study out of Europe showing the same results as the earlier studies—raw-milk-drinking children show signs of stronger immune function than pasteurized-milk-drinkering children. The latest one concludes that infants on raw milk have 30% fewer infections compared to infants on the pasteurized stuff.

The European dairy oligarchs must be reading these studies and, like their corporate cousins in the U.S., becoming ever more afraid, afraid that raw milk is becoming an ever greater force. You don’t have to be a consumer marketing genius to understand the likely effects of these studies on moms and dads worldwide. I mean, who wouldn’t be attracted to raw milk with the kind of health benefits families are experiencing?

I know, one of the researchers on this latest study wrote in some hedging language about raw milk’s potential dangers. It’s the same sort of language as contained in the other European studies, and seems to be a prerequisite if you’re going to get your results published in a “prestige” journal like Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 

Jeez, all you have to do is watch the evening news and listen to the list of side effects of all those prescription medications advertised ad nauseum. Heart attacks, dizziness, blood clots, blackouts, blindness, leprosy (okay, maybe not leprosy), etc, etc, etc. It is mind boggling. And that stuff is all legal to advertise in prime time. The research behind these drugs all gets published in prestigious journals, and no one says the drugs shouldn’t be used until all (or any) of the side effects are eliminated. Who is kidding whom here?

No, I’m coming around to the conspiracy camp when it comes to the worldwide battle over access to raw milk. The big guys are getting desperate. They see 1,300 vending machines in Italy, with the number growing all the time, and they know where things are going. There’s many billions of Euros at stake here.