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FDA probes raw milk operator

MONDAY JUNE 17, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- The Food and Drug Administration is conducting an investigation of cross-state sales of raw milk by Organic Pastures, a Fresno dairy operator that is California's largest raw milk supplier, CNN.com reports.

The agency's move is viewed, according to CNN, as part of a crackdown by government officials on consumption of raw milk, which many proponents claim is a miracle food and offers a variety of health benefits.

The FDA seems determined. The agency has even tried to recruit a worker on the farm to secretly tape some evidence against the owner known as Mark McAfee. The worker rejected the offer.

There is a long history of government not wanting raw milk consumed, although many people value raw milk. Twenty-two U.S. states now ban sales of raw milk for human consumption, and the rest permit it to be sold within their borders, according to CNN. The FDA bans any cross-border sales.

Proponents either dislike the fact that the conventional or pasteurized milk likely
comes from hormone-injected dairy cows, believe that the pasteurized milk is too harsh to digest, and/or believe that raw milk can help strengthen their immune systems and prevent digestive disorders.

Opponents on the other hand say raw milk can harbor pathogens such as salmonella, and drinking it can cause illness. Because of this, they say, people should not drink raw milk. But that probably is not enough of a reason that could justify the need for people to avoid raw milk.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited by CNN.com, about 1000 people fell ill after using raw milk between 1998 and 2005; two died.

The fatalities from drinking raw milk, if there are any, is almost nothing compared to the death tolls resulting from highway traffic and medical errors, which are about 50,000 and 100,000 a year in the U.S., respectively.

There is an ongoing salmonella outbreak associated with consumption of raw tomatoes. The outbreak has resulted in at least 277 cases of salmonella illness and 43 hospitalizations in 28 states since mid-April. Critics questioned why the states did not ban selling and eating raw tomatoes?

Many products such as drugs are more dangerous than raw milk. They are allowed because it is believed that their benefits outweigh their risks. When it comes to raw milk, whether the risks outweigh its benefits or vice versa, all probably depend upon what you prefer, pasteurized milk or raw milk.

By Jimmy Downs, and edited by Heather Kelley.
Jun 17, 2008 - 10:21:19 AM