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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ron Paul Introduces Raw Milk Bill

I've written many times before about raw milk, milk that has come straight from a cow without being pasteurized. The last big post was titled Raw Milk Not For "Anyone, At Any Time, For Any Reason", quoting an FDA spokesperson. A Bush administration FDA spokesperson, so hardly an anti-business activist.

Ron Paul, the Republican Representative from Texas who is the most libertarian member of Congress, has introduced a bill to rescind current federal regulations against the transport of raw milk. According to the Organic Consumers Organization:

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul has introduced HR 778, a bill "to authorize the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption."

Under the bill, the federal government could not "take any action ... that would prohibit, interfere with, regulate, or otherwise restrict the interstate traffic of milk, or a milk product, that is unpasteurized and packaged for direct human consumption solely on the basis that the milk or milk product is unpasteurized."

You can find a number of people commenting favorably on this proposed law in response to Jennifer Lance's column on the bill at Red Green and, an environmental site that purports to assemble opinion from the right and left. The commenters give the standard libertarian view that everything should be legal and it's up to consumers to make their own decisions.

What's my take? Well, first of all this is pure political posturing by Paul. As a Republican - and a maverick Republican with no clout even within his party - he knows there's no chance at all that this bill will even be considered, let alone passed. That leaves him totally free to pander to his libertarian fan base with no risk of real world consequences.

Second, except in a very few instances of border areas, this bill would affect almost no raw milk sales in the real world. It would allow for interstate shipment of raw milk, but not change its legality in the many states in which it is banned outright. Even those states that have legalized raw milk allow farmers to peddle it only under extremely restricted conditions. Raw milk is so inherently dangerous that no one takes the chance of shipping it any distance. If the bill were magically to become law raw milk sales would increase hardly at all.

You won't find any of this in the articles themselves. Lance is totally ignorant of any the issues. Her support of raw milk consists of a quote from a 1938 medical journal article. I guarantee you that there are more recent articles to cite.

The other site leads you back to, the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, an anti-pasteurization nutcase, whose rants about the subject are mostly unconnected to reality. (See Oops. The "American Dairy Board" Doesn't Exist.)

One actual microbiologist managed to sneak past the libertarians at RedGreenandBlue and his comments are even more pointed than the FDA's.
That guy over there in the corner bent over vomitting [sic] into a garbage can with bloody diarrhea running down his leg is a libertarian.

Me, I like food regulation. So would those who died from raw milk contamination. So would those people who died during the recent outbreaks of salmonella poisoning. So would... You get my drift. Fortunately, Dr. Paul won't get to kill others because his silly bill will itself be killed. His anti-governmental rants and popularity remain a danger to all.

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JC said...

My family and I drink 5 gallons of raw milk a week. I eat raw eggs daily with my raw yogurt made from raw milk. I also eat raw meat regularly. I can tell you I have never had diarrhea since doing this for the past 5 years. I also never get sick. Not since eating like this. I mean it. While people all around us are sniffling and suffering, we never, ever catch colds or the flu. I am without a doubt one of the healthiest people I know as a matter of fact.

I think the fear of raw milk is based on the history of it's production in the last century. People have been drinking milk raw for about 30,000 years and it wasn't until the production became industrialized and moved into the cities and cows were fed sludge from the whiskey plants nearby that people started getting sick. Most of that was from being contaminated from the open milking and storage.
If you would like to hear the other side in a much more intelligent way (I'm not a fan of Mercola either) please read the book, The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid.
People who drink raw milk are not crazy, we are actually quite sane and love the stuff.

If others don't want to drink that's fine with me, I'm not a pusher. What we do want is the freedom to drink it.

Food poisoning from factory-farmed beef and from veggies coming from farms receiving the runoff from factory farms is much more prevalent. Less than 1% of food-borne illnesses come from dairy and most of that is from pasteurized milk.

And since you're talking to people who are lactose intolerant I think it would be great if you held a less biased view of raw milk because in fact many people who are lactose intolerant can consume raw milk due to the presence of lastase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. In pasteurization this, and all, enzymes are destroyed. I'm not saying it's right for all but it could be an option for some, why dismiss something that you obviously know so little about?

Steve Carper said...

I don't know of any evidence from mainstream dairy scientists that raw milk has lactase in any quantity. In fact, I'm trying to investigate that statement.

I can't even understand why milk would contain lactase. That would mean that the lactose would be digested before it got drunk. What sense does that make? That defies everything known about milk.

Raw milk may have aspects that are legitimate to advocate but the presence of lactase doesn't appear to be one of them.

JC said...

I have read this information in The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid. I've looked through his bibliography but I am unable to find a specific document stating that raw milk contains lactase. Actually what I think it is, is this:
"Raw milk contains lactase, but the enzyme is destroyed by pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial bacteria, which are the SOURCE OF LACTASE IN RAW MILK, AND WHICH CAN PRODUCE LACTASE IN THE DIGESTIVE TRACT"

So it looks to me that he is saying that the bacteria (lacto-bacilli) contain (or activate?) these enzymes and when they enter the digestive track they begin to break down the lactose.

I didn't have time to read the whole source, but it looks like that's what they're saying here it is:

Steve Carper said...

The claim that raw milk contains beneficial bacteria is exactly as false as the claim that raw milk contains lactase.

Common sense backs this up. What happens if you let milk sit? It sours and spoils from the action of the bacteria that exist in it or enter it. While sour cream can be used this is not the dairy product people refer to.

On the contrary, it's the cultured low-lactose dairy products like yogurt and kefir that are made by beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus. These are different strains from the ones that sour milk. It's the Streptococci bacteria that convert the lactose into lactic acid. Certain varieties of Lactobacillus enter in this environment of higher acidity after the lactic acid exists. There are many varieties and not all manufacture lactase.


Raw milk contains neither the lactase nor the bacteria that manufacture it.

By deliberately confusing Streptococci bacteria with Lactobacillus, even the wrong kind of Lactobacillus, raw milk advocates seek to falsify the potential dangers of raw milk.

I never say that raw milk is dangerous in and of itself. I only say that history has shown repeatedly and definitively that it is exceptionally difficult to keep cows and their milk free from disease, even under model farm conditions. This danger becomes increasingly likely as farms scale up their activity to meet larger demands.

Individuals drinking individual raw milks are statistically safe to do so. But they are also statistically more likely as a group to suffer consequences. It's the absolute likelihood of these dangers that made states ban or heavily regulate raw milk.

A few people in the community are simply lying about raw milk to create pressure to circumvent these laws. I won't stand for that. Present an honest case and I'll be with you. But the current climate is not being honest and I have to say so publicly and loudly.

JC said...

I'm curious as to why you believe that people are lying in order to make it legal to drink raw milk. From all that I have witnessed, people see an immediate and marked improvement in their health when they begin drinking raw milk and other raw milk products. It also tastes great. Isn't that enough to make it legal? No, it's not because there is a huge industry opposed to raw milk because it threatens their entrenched position and their bottom line. But the reasons above are enough for people, many people, to feel strongly enough to demand that it is made legal. We want to drink it and why should we be denied that right?

I believe that it is the duty of the lawmakers to prove that raw milk is unsafe. But I do agree that not all raw milk is equal. However I am confident that there are many farmers across this country who are doing an amazing job at producing a great product that is safe to drink.

There are many more products on the market that present a much greater risk to people's health than raw milk. Such as mass-produced beef, sugar, white flour, soda, cigarettes, and the list goes on.

I have not seen any convincing arguments that tell me I have a greater chance of "suffering consequences" that are greater than those suffered by people drinking pasteurized milk or eating a McDonald's hamburger. As it is, less than 1% of food-borne illnesses are caused by dairy. If you are so concerned about people's health why not take a cause that is affecting so many other people?

I am not a biologist and do not have the depth of understanding to go into different bacteria types and their activities. It is my sincere hope that I am not being lied to but I will look into it. I do know firsthand many, many people who drink raw milk that were unable to tolerate pasteurized milk.

Anonymous said...

"I am not a biologist"

Then do us a favor by abstaining a month or so from promoting your particular brand of ignorance and instead take a local community college biology course. That way you can save this gentleman the pains of supplementing the sub-par education you were given in public schools.

And while you are at it, google anecdotal evidence.