Friday, December 18, 2015 - The FDA currently prohibits the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk and raw milk products, and delegates all further regulation to the states by advising them to do likewise. Based on this advice, 40 states prohibit the retail sale of raw milk and raw milk products.
The government claims these bans are promulgated and enforced in the name of public safety. Are the health threats from raw milk significant enough to warrant a ban on its sale? Government data and the lack of regulation of other raw foods suggest that they are not. While the FDA and CDC continue to stress the dangers of raw milk, their own data gives the lie to their position.
Over a 10-year period, deaths due to FDA-approved prescription drugs totaled 1,060,000. Deaths due to USDA-approved foods: produce 3,330, Poultry 2,780, pork 820, Fish 710, Beef 550. Deaths due to raw milk: 0.
In spite of these statistics, the CDC still insists, "While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all”. Yet newly-released CDC data show that, from 2007 to 2012, there were a total of 81 reported outbreaks associated with unpasteurized milk and that these outbreaks resulted in 979 illnesses, 73 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths. Over a five-year period of relatively wide consumption, raw milk did not kill a single person, even though it is estimated that in California alone 100,000 people drink raw milk weekly.
More and more consumers are becoming aware of the health benefits of raw milk. Unpasteurized dairy products carry many health benefits--especially for those people who are sensitive to lactose or have allergies. Kristin Canty, director of the documentary Farmageddon, told us, "My son was completely ridden with allergies and asthma until we started drinking raw milk as a family. We have been drinking it now for 15 years. I find it ridiculous that the government thinks that they have the right to tell us that we can't consume a substance that has been used for sustenance for thousands of years."
Ten states allow retail sales of all types of raw milk, and more allow on-farm sales. Despite warnings from the FDA, there is no massive public health crisis in the states that allow consumption of raw milk, compared to those that do not. Legislation proposed in Congress to ban federal interference with interstate raw milk sales gained little traction. The author of the bills, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said, "When I first introduced the legislation, I didn't realize the lactose lobby would be so intolerant." He plans to reintroduce the bills this session, and mounting public demand for unpasteurized diary may allow future bills to receive a vote.
Weighing the benefits of raw milk, and other foods such as lettuce and shellfish, against the risks is an individual choice that the government should stay out of. Instead of creating and enforcing regulations which ban products when there are not substantial threats to the public, government agencies should leave people and the food that they choose to consume alone.
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