Unpasteurized Raw Milk: The Controversy

Swiss Cow

Canada has had a federal prohibition on raw milk sales since 1991, preventing the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk. Australia is the only country with a prohibition similar to ours. You can find raw milk for sale in stores in California and even in vending machines in France. Raw milk is generally legal with tight regulation across the European Union.

“Raw milk contains lactic-acid producing bacteria that protects against pathogens. Pasteurization destroys these helpful organisms... Raw milk turns pleasantly sour, while pasteurized milk, lacking any beneficial bacteria, will putrefy”
— Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

The sale of raw milk is prohibited in Canada on the basis of public safety. Contrary to popular belief, the main cause of foodborne illness is not related to animal products. The primary cause is fresh produce: about 30% of food poisoning today is from leafy greens. Take for example the recent major recall of contaminated fresh produce. Dole and Presidence Choice leafy greens from a facility in Springfield Ohio were removed from shelves all across North America due to a Listeria contamination issue. Their products were linked to one death in Michigan, 12 hospitalizations across the US, and 8 hospitalizations in Canada. Foodborne illness is a serious matter, but tightly regulated raw milk may not pose the same risk as large scale farming of fresh produce. Raw milk is no longer the high-risk food that it was in the 1930s. Nadine Jiaz, a raw milk researcher and advocate, recently spoke at the 2016 Guelph Raw Milk Symposium and demonstrated that eating home-cooked chicken or helping yourself to a serving of leafy green vegetables may pose a greater risk to your health than a glass of raw milk.

There is not a lot of reliable information out there about raw milk. What we do know is that drinking unpasteurized milk has been shown to protect against atopy (a tendency to be allergic) and asthma in children, a significant health issue today in Canada. A study conducted in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (2011) attributed these health benefits to whey protein found in raw milk, although the mechanism is not understood.

Raw milk for sale. Retrieved from Modern Farmer at http://modernfarmer.com/2013/08/a-model-for-reconciliation-over-raw-milk/

Raw milk for sale. Retrieved from Modern Farmer at http://modernfarmer.com/2013/08/a-model-for-reconciliation-over-raw-milk/

It’s difficult to know what to believe when it comes to raw milk and it’s prohibition in Canada. The risk of milk-related foodborne illness in areas where raw milk is tightly regulated seems to be overestimated by many, especially when considering the real risk of other foods that we commonly consume. Raw milk deserves further study, including investigation of health benefits and risks. If you’re interested in the latest developments of raw milk in Canada or would like to be more involved, check out the Bovine at https://thebovine.wordpress.com

 

PLEASE NOTE: ALL MATERIAL AND INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS POST IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT MEAN TO REPLACE OR AUGMENT ANY ADVICE OR CONSULTATION PROVIDED BY A LICENSED HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER OR PHYSICIAN.   

          

Milking cows in Switzerland

Milking cows in Switzerland

Sources

Carter, J. (2014). Raw milk: weighing risks and benefits. The Western Producer. Retrieved from http://www.producer.com/2014/05/raw-milk-weighing-risks-and-benefits/

CDC (2015). Food Safety and Raw Milk. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html

CDC (Jan 22, 2016). Food Recall Warning - Food Recall Warning – Certain Dole brand pre-packaged chopped salads, salad blends and kits and leafy greens and certain PC Organics brand leafy greens recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2016-01-22c/eng/1453522915084/1453522920123

CTV News (Jan 22, 2016). 1 dead in Listeria outbreak linked to Dole lettuce; recall affects Canada. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/1-dead-in-listeria-outbreak-linked-to-dole-lettuce-recall-affects-canada-1.2748461

Fallon, S. (1995). Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. White Plains, MD: NewTrends Publishing, Inc.

Gumpert, D. (2013). A Model for Reconciliation Over Raw Milk? Modern Farmer. Retrieved from http://modernfarmer.com/2013/08/a-model-for-reconciliation-over-raw-milk/ 

Ijaz, N. (2016). Raw Milk Symposium Lecture part 2 [video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRgeLWCwcok

Loss, G., Apprich, S., Waser, M., Kneifel, W., Genuneit, J., Buchele, G., … & Mutius, E. (2011). The protective effect of farm milk consumption on childhood asthma and atopy: The GABRIELA study. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 128(4), 766-733. PMID: 21875744