There is lots not to like about the new web site about raw milk from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It is nearly totally one-sided in painting raw milk as dangerous. It is intellectually dishonest in not acknowledging large-scale journal-published research that demonstrates raw milk’s health benefits in reducing the incidence of asthma and allergies in children. It seems to have a connection with a product liability law firm that has been using its clients’ involvement in the site for its own promotion. On top of all that, it is taxpayer funded.
Ironically, when I watched the obvious site marquee–three videos of individuals who had been sickened, or had relatives sickened, by raw milk–I realized there could be something positive in the site, a teachable moment, as they say. The videos are difficult to watch because they are so sad and terrifying. And obviously, the CDC operatives want people to walk away from those videos feeling both teary-eyed and afraid, determined never ever to go anywhere near raw dairy products.
But what stood out to me about those videos is that each of the three individuals interviewed was new to raw milk when they or their relatives became ill. Other notable individuals who have become very sick from raw milk were similarly newbies–I’m thinking in particular about Lauren Herzog, the California girl who became sick at the same time as Mary McGonigle Martin’s son in 2006 (and chronicled a number of times on this site); and Mari Tardiff, the California woman who became paralyzed in 2008 after her first time drinking raw milk.
I’m not a scientist, but you don’t have to be a scientist to see the pattern. We certainly don’t have a large sampling to deal with, but then, we fortunately don’t have many individuals who become so ill from raw milk. Indeed, the ones I referred to above are probably the majority for the last five years. But just using the government’s own “data,” why not try to learn from these situations?
Statistically speaking, we know that raw milk isn’t a public health hazard– 50-150 reported illnesses each year isn’t a public health problem in a food system with 20,000 to 25,000 reported food-borne illnesses. Could raw milk producers do a better job in milk production so as to reduce the number? Absolutely, and I’ve chronicled here a movement to improve safety.
As part of an overall movement to improve safety, it would also would be worth investigating the health backgrounds of the individuals who became ill. It may also be that individuals new to raw milk should be encouraged to go at it gradually, perhaps beginning with raw kefir or yogurt, and then moving to raw milk in small quantities, and moving on from there. In other words, realistic exploration and education.
Clearly, we have more to learn about raw dairy, much as we do about the health benefits and dangers of many foods. But so long as the government officials in charge of such matters view raw dairy as inherently dangerous, and see their education campaigns as part of a war, there’s no way they could ever be open to the kinds of questions I am raising.
Lykke seems to suggest that portraying the dangers of raw milk on the CDC site is simply a matter of equal treatment, presumably a counterbalance to pro-raw-milk sites like that of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “Those who had a bad experience with raw milk should have the same rights to describe their experience as those who had a great experience with the product.”
I’m sorry, but the comparison has a big flaw. The CDC web site is a government web site, supposedly geared toward informing the populace about how to improve public health. It carries the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government, and as such is financially supported by all of us, those in favor and those against raw milk. But it is being used as a propaganda tool by those against raw milk. There had to be expenses for the videos and the editing. There were no doubt travel expenses for the victims. And the salaries of the scientists who oversaw the whole thing.
The same funding could could be used as a tool for good, if those in charge simply removed their intellectual blinders, and moderated their personal antipathy and disgust for those of us who value nutritionally-dense foods as an important foundation of good health.
Science is supposed to be about open-minded investigation, and an appreciation that we do the investigation because we always have more to learn, and that the answers we discover don’t always fit out preconceptions. The scientists involved in putting together this web site are a shame to their profession. ?