Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pasteurized Milk, or, "Hey, Dude, Where's My Cow?"

In May 2010, saying that he "...must side with the interests of public health and the dairy industry..." Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle vetoed a bill that would have allowed the sale of raw milk under specific conditions for a year and a half. Many observers thought the bill, already passed in the Wisconsin legislature by a wide margin, would be signed by Doyle.

In other words, according to what Doyle himself said, he caved-in to the lobbying of special interests: "... side with interests of public health and the dairy industry..." He probably was not aware of what it was to which he was admitting, which makes the problem even worse.

"Public health" doesn't refer to the health of each individual of "the public", whatever that is. It refers to the officiants of government agencies whose opinions of what should and should not be done is dictated by corporate entities that have a special interest in outcomes.

Even though there is enough support from the people in Wisconsin for the "legalization" of raw milk, even though there is enough support from the group of elected state representatives for the "legalization" of raw milk, even though raw milk is "legal" in other states including Illinois and Minnesota, even though (in recent history) pasteurized milk caused more serious illness than raw milk, Doyle vetoed the bill under the lobbying influence of apparently powerful non-governmental agencies.

Statistically, raw spinach and canteloupe are more dangerous than raw milk. Recently, the Departmment of Agriculture announced another "ground beef" recall due to E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, this time 1,000,000 pounds of the mystery meat. The mid-sized Modesto, California, meat processing company in question says it takes food safety very seriously and, of course, it must. But with so many hands in this kind of operation, contamination is inevitable.

Approving of the governor's veto, the President of the Wisconsin Medical Society issued a statement on May 19, 2010 saying, in part, that "...the governor acted on behalf of sound science and in defense of children who may not understand the hazards of a glass of raw milk..."

It's no secret that people can be controlled with fear.

One would ask, "To what 'sound science' does the Wisconsin Medical society refer?" Is it the "sound science" perpetrated by the American Medical Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration? One does not find a convincing reason anywhere in the documentation to outlaw raw milk that is produced for raw consumption. In California, where raw milk is "legal", we do not hear of people dropping dead from its consumption the way we hear of people dropping dead from FDA approved drugs prescribed by doctors. What is found, over and over again, is that the dangers lurking in the food supply, including milk, are caused by the over-processing and adulteration of food materials by an impatiently greedy food industry that has influence in government.

Other groups that lobbyed Doyle included the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau said that their opposition to legalizing raw milk has to do with
our overall concern for the State’s $26 billion dairy industry. If a person becomes ill from drinking raw milk, it is not only unpasteurized milk that gets a bad image, but all milk and dairy products. Dairy farmers have invested millions of dollars promoting milk and dairy products. Dairy farmers cannot afford to have an incident adversely affect consumption.
Raw milk dairy farmers can make 3 times as much money selling raw milk to people than they make selling to a processor, and they can do it with smaller herds and healthier cows.

The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association website lists as "sponsors" many farming industry companies including those involved in banking, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and "genetic improvement", and the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association.

This is not to say that there's something wrong with participating in big business and associating with others in big business. But, as in the case of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, when their "sponsors" page lists Cargill, Pioneer, Pfizer, Purina, BASF, and many other national and multinational companies, one may assume that their influence probably will not come down in favor of the small, independent farmer who prefers not to have ties to agri-business and biotech.

Small, independent farmers who don't want to play the game, who believe in the importance of thoughtful, even loving, farming practice, who simply want to provide people with wholesome, nutritious food, are being harrassed by government officials, extensions of the food and agriculture industries. This makes government and governmental agencies unrepresentative and untrustworthy in the eyes of people who expect fairness from their representatives.

Food pathogens in milk for which pasteurization was found necessary over 100 years ago account for 0.01% of food-borne illness today. Food pathogens found most commonly today have emerged only in the past 30 years. Between 1990 and 2004, all milk, raw and pasteurized, accounted for less than 1% of all reported food-borne illness.

Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in pasteurized milk caused 200,000 illnesses and 18 deaths in 1984-1985. After 40 years of controversy, only this year the FDA only recommended that the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals be reduced.

You don't have to drink raw milk if you don't want to. But if you do want to, you can't because that choice is not available. Sushi? Pack of cigarets, bottle of whiskey, .38 special, roulette...? Yes. Raw milk directly from the farmer? No.

We have many strange incongruities in our society that we don't question because our perception has been trained to accept them. On closer inspection, some are funny, some are not.