Last week, a very sad incident occurred on the Mornington Peninsula. A place where Shaun and I call home. A young child, aged 3, died from drinking raw milk that was infected with a bacteria and a number of other people were severely ill from it. Now many people would start shouting their outrage at the parents of this child saying why would they feed their children unpasteurized milk? There is a reason why we pasteurize it and this is definitely one of them.
But I take a different view on this topic. But before I voice my opinion, let’s look at a couple of facts around this.
Pasteurization was brought in many years ago when the dairy industry had poor food handling techniques, lacked cold transport and also to remove any milk borne pathogens that were common in the day. Which basically meant that they could not guarantee the quality of the product once it left the farm. Pasteurization was used to make it safer to drink until a better system was found to store and transport it. Well over a century later, with cold tankers available, extremely good sterilization techniques and many tests available to detect pathogens, is it still relevant?
Pasteurization does a good job of making the milk safer to drink, gives it a longer shelf life and the skeptic in me can’t help but believe that it helps big industry take a strangle hold on the dairy industry while paying the farmer a miniscule amount for their product. If raw milk was able to be sold, just about every farmer would have milk available from their door.
The other issue with pasteurization is the effects it has on the vitamins, minerals and proteins. The heat used, even though not that high, destroys many of the vitamins and denatures the proteins and minerals. Meaning they are far less bioavailable. Including the calcium which we are all told to drink milk for. So raw milk is a far more nutritious food than the pasteurized version and would be the choice of me and my family if it weren’t for one issue.
The milk in the unfortunate incident was labeled as “Bathing Milk” and “Not for human consumption”. Now I know many people who buy this, I have bought it myself a number of times. But no one I know who has bought it has done so with the idea of bathing in it. It is simply the only way many people can access the raw milk without breaking any laws and attracting massive fines. This unfortunately means that the product doesn’t need any testing for pathogens and there is no control over the quality of the product sold, nor is there any recourse for people who are affected by the product. The reason being is because it’s sold as “not for human consumption” meaning all the liability lies with the consumer. This is certainly not the case with any normal “food” product.
What I would like to see is the ability to choose which product is right for me and my family, not having the government or big business dictate what I can and can’t have. If raw milk was legalized, like it is in some states of Australia and many countries around the world, you would find that there would be much stricter guidelines around the product. This would make it safer for the consumer, testing for pathogens would be compulsory and there would be massive fines for producers who don’t adhere to the rules meaning the aforementioned incident would be less likely to happen.
For me, I don’t drink milk as it causes gastro issues for me whether it is raw or pasteurized. I do not have the same issue with natural yoghurt which is a far better product for many reasons.
Pushing an industry like raw milk underground, is unfortunately a great way to risk making many people sick, or even killing them. Proper governing of the industry is a far better option for us all. So for now, I would advise against drinking “Bathing Milk”, even if it may be a healthier product, as the risks associated far outweigh the benefits.