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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Two Sides of the Raw Milk Argument

AlterNet, as the name implies, purports to give alternative views to conventional opinions, taking articles from a variety of sources in addition to original content. Alternative now apparently means looking at both sides of an issue rather than raw advocacy if The Battle Over Raw Milk: Let's Ditch the Hysterics and Give People a Choice is any evidence. Richardson is founder of the blog La Vida Locavore, a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board, and author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It...

Although, as the title indicates, Richardson eventually finishes the article by saying that people should have the choice to drink raw milk if they want to, she does list some of the objections to raw milk. She balances that with the usual shaky anecdotal evidence for raw milk. And even reported that in "a survey of milk drinkers in the state of Michigan, over 80 percent of those advised by a health care professional that they were lactose intolerant were able to consume raw milk without problem." She doesn't seem to understand that the "survey" was a bogus one put forth by the leading raw milk advocacy organization, the Weston A. Price Foundation. The survey was only of raw milk consumers who had contracts with farmers producing raw milk, not the most impartial of populations.

Medical studies on the one side, anecdotal testimony on the other, but Richardson still comes down on the side of choice, for the straightforward reason that people should be allowed to take risks. Many states already allow people to take risks by making raw milk legal, while also trying to minimize the risk.

Which is fine, as long as everybody does understand the actual risks. As Richardson points out we eat many risky foods that no agency protects us from.

So everybody's happy, right?

Not in the least. The truly frightening part doesn't appear in the article but in the comments. (Note: many of the comments rightfully complain about a subhead that has now been removed.) Nobody there is thanking Richardson for presenting both sides of the argument. Almost universally the commenters either present their anecdotes about the wonderfulness of raw milk or excoriate her for having the audacity to present both sides. That's unfortunate.

More facts, fewer anecdotes. That's an alternative point of view I'd like to see spread across the Internet.

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