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F.ood & H.ealth : & P.olitics Last Updated: Dec 6th, 2006 - 11:09:35

Raw milk advocate says government made a big mistake
Dec 6, 2006, 11:07

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Kirkland Lake Northern News (ON)
Paulette Peirol, Osprey News Network

Michael Schmidt, living off nothing but raw milk and water for almost two weeks, was cited as saying the provincial government is messing with the wrong man, adding, "They made a big mistake. They should have known that I'm very determined, and that the public is too well educated to buy all their crap. … It's not just about the milk. The milk is only a small part of it. It galvanizes people because it stands for so much more."

The story says that the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph claims that four cases of E. coli were linked to unpasteurized milk sold in Barrie; Schmidt claims that the Barrie family publicly stated last week that the E. coli came from beef that was not properly cooked. Schmidt gets his milk tested once a month, and keeps a portion of every batch for quality control.

For Schmidt, the milk war also stands for people's right to support farmers and choose fresh, locally grown, organic food. And it stands for what he calls hypocrisy on the part of a government that lets consumers choose to buy harmful substances such as cigarettes and alcohol, but not raw milk.
Schmidt was further cited as saying his battle is ultimately about choice, adding, "I'm not saying all raw milk is safe, and I'm not saying all pasteurized milk is bad. But the government has no business in that decision" about what people choose to drink.

The best way for the government to address the rising black market for raw milk, Schmidt says, is to regulate it, just as they do in much of Europe and 28 states south of the border.

For safety reasons, it could not be distributed on a mass scale, as pasteurized milk is, he says. Rather, it would need to go directly from the farm to the consumer. The bottles could even say: "Raw milk, may contain hazardous pathogens," he adds with a wry smile.

It's our milk, leave us alone

Globe and Mail

Karen Selick, a lawyer who lives in Belleville, Ont., writes in this op-ed that there's a cow in her freezer. Henry, the organic farmer who raised her, said her grain-free, grass-only diet would make her lean and tasty, so we ordered her. She's been delicious.

As health-conscious consumers, we check out our food sources whenever feasible. We try to make sure that the chickens really range free and that the farmers are sincere about their pesticide-free vegetables. We're fairly confident that the organic food we buy is more nutritious and less toxic than its supermarket counterpart -- but we know for sure it tastes better.

What we would really like to include in our diet is raw, unpasteurized milk. But, being Ontarians, we are not allowed to. We know there are dairy farmers in Eastern Ontario who drink their own milk unpasteurized, and would be happy to sell it to us that way, but they can't. Nor can they sell us a share in their herd and provide us with our own cow's unpasteurized milk. Durham County dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, who has been openly operating this way for years, recently had his farm raided and equipment seized, a move that essentially shut down his business.

Ontario health authorities say consuming raw milk can produce "mild illnesses, long-lasting serious diseases and even death." That sounds pretty serious. But a little digging on the Internet brings me to the website of Chris Gupta, an electrical engineer who spends his spare time browsing through publications such as the American Journal of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This light reading leads him to conclude that, in the U.S., the incidence of bacterial illness from the consumption of raw milk (1.9 per 100,000 people per year) is far lower than that from the consumption of foods in general (4.7 per 100,000).

So, maybe Ontario's Health Ministry should be urging me to forgo the consumption of everything but raw milk if it really wants to reduce the risks to my health.

Organic Pastures Dairy Co. is a California family-owned farm that produces and sells raw milk legally. This year, Organic Pastures has achieved bacterial counts averaging 4,007 per millilitre, well below the 15,000 that California law permits for raw milk, and only 4 per cent of the 100,000 that California permits for pasteurized milk. The company says the high levels of bacteria contained in milk destined for pasteurization are not removed from the milk -- they're just killed. When they die, their cell walls burst, releasing histamines that can cause allergic reactions. The destruction of enzymes by pasteurization also causes lactose intolerance. Many people who become ill drinking pasteurized milk can drink it raw without any problem.

I'm no scientist. I can neither prove nor disprove the allegations thrown around in the raw-milk debate. But I do know there's enough information about the dangers of pasteurized milk to make me want the freedom to choose.

Pasteurization is really just the lazy man's way of
preventing milk-borne diseases. "Nuke 'em all and let God sort it out." Back in the 1930s, when pasteurization became mandatory in Ontario, this approach might have been the only one possible. But we now know from the experience of farmers around the world that they can selectively eliminate harmful bacteria while retaining beneficial bacteria. In short, legalizing the sale of raw milk in Ontario would probably result in higher standards of hygiene among milk producers.

Would-be consumers of raw milk aren't ignorant about the dangers. It's almost impossible to get information about the benefits of raw milk without simultaneously wading through a barrage of allegations against it. We are probably the people who least need government "protection." Please, Ontario, go "protect" someone else.

REpublsihed from

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