Raw Milk

Recently I was asked to speak about raw milk at the US Public Health Services Commission Officers Symposium being held in Glendale this year. So I thought I’d share some of that discussion.

An Abridged History of Humans and Milking Cows

  • Aurochs (forerunners to modern cattle) – domesticated 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in Fertile Crescent
  • 3000 BCE – Egyptian stone carving of person milking cow with calf nearby
  • 1796 CE – In England, Jenner notices milk maids with cow pox are immune to small pox; begins inoculating people
  • 1860s – In France, Pasteur demonstrates basis for germ theory; subsequently develops pasteurization to eliminate germs from medium
  • Late 19th Century US – unhygienic production facilities serve as a medium to spread diseases like typhoid and tuberculosis in cities; public health crisis led to skyrocketing infant mortality
  • 1889 Henry Coit, MD began campaign for Medical Milk Commission to oversee or certify production of milk for cleanliness (son died 1891 from contaminated milk)
  • Commission formed in 1893
  • 1895 commercial pasteurizing machines for milk were introduced
  • “Bad Milk Causes Typhoid,” Sep. 19, 1913 edition of The New York Times – large typhoid epidemic in New York City attributed to contaminated milk
  • 1917 Mandatory Pasteurization begins in many places
  • 1999 Dr. John Leedom, M.D, physician representative – board of directors at California’s Alta Dena Dairy’s certified raw milk operation; discontinued raw milk production and distribution in 1999
  • Today raw milk regulation varies from one extreme to the other across the 50 states; some ban it totally while others allow the sale

Here are Dr. Leedom’s words that I find very clarifying.

“Raw milk and raw milk products should be avoided, unless the consumer believes that the improved taste of the product warrants the risk. Warning labels should appear on all raw milk and raw milk products that clearly spell out the possible dangers, so the consumer can make an informed choice: caveat emptor.”

There are many other aspects that I want to share on this topic. But that will have to suffice for the moment because I am out of time. So next time: raw milk part 2; until then enjoy the ride.