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Got Real (?) Milk?
November 2, 2009 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Raw Milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Raw milk is legal in England, but not in Scotland. Similarly, it's legal in South Carolina and illegal in Georgia. Enter MeFi's Own® ewagoner of Athens Locally Grown.

Athens Locally Grown connects consumers with farmers throughout Georgia and South Carolina, including raw milk dairies. The State of Georgia caught wind of this relationship and sent representatives from their Department of Agriculture. This is what happens when the state impinges on your neighbors' rights to drink what they want.

Hear Eric talk about the seizure on the radio (scroll down to 10/22/2009), check out Ron Paul's proposed regulation, and read the FDA rule in question.

Previously: Raw Milk is Secret in Brooklyn
posted by Medieval Maven (144 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
If it's not a federal offense, shouldn't he just ship the milk to his customers and tell the state police to buzz off?
posted by shii at 6:20 AM on November 2, 2009


Ask Kafka how this raw milk worked for him.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:22 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when the state impinges on your neighbors' rights to drink what they want.

That's some serious editorializing. I'm all for relaxing standards for raw milk specifically, but there is a good general argument that states and the federal government have a responsibility to protect public health - people actually don't have a blanket right to drink what they want, at least not under the law of the land.
posted by Miko at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2009


This is what happens when the state impinges on your neighbors' rights to drink what they want.

This is ringing anti-vax bells for me.

check out Ron Paul's proposed regulation

lolflagged
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


When I'm in the country, drinking water from lakes or aquifers, I like my water real. None of this boiling stuff. For me, it's nothing but all natural, as-it's-pumped, just like the good old days. Pathowhats?
posted by battlebison at 6:39 AM on November 2, 2009


Related: Campaign to Legalize the Sale of Raw Milk in NJ

My buddy gets raw milk from a farm in Upstate NY - he says it tastes amazing.
posted by exhilaration at 6:39 AM on November 2, 2009


Hmmm, I find a ban on raw milk quite reasonable: there is no obvious benefit of not pasteurising milk (there should not be any significant difference in taste between bacteriologically safe raw milk and pasteurised milk), and quite a high potential risk.
On the other hand, where I find myself in agreement with Ron Paul (good Lord, I never thought I'd find myself writing such a sentence) is in finding a ban on raw milk products unreasonable: that affects a great deal of delicious, delicious cheeses. Of course, raw milk cheeses are also (somewhat) risky, and they should be closely monitored, with pregnant women and infants preferably abstaining from them, but the benefit in this case is more than evident to anybody who's ever tasted, say, a ripe raw milk Munster or Stilton.
posted by Skeptic at 6:43 AM on November 2, 2009


I've never heard of this guy, but there's a dairy near my home (in Georgia) where we've acquired raw milk, "because our pets love it". It's only illegal to sell it for human consumption, BTW. I don't do a whole lot of dairy, but from what Mrs. Deadmessenger tells me, our "pets" find raw milk yogurt and kefir quite tasty.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:47 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Raw milk is great if you have a healthy immune system and/or you are accustomed to drinking it, and it comes from a facility that is kept scrupulously clean. Raw milk cheese is amazing. Raw milk tastes great.

If you are a person with a compromised immune system, raw milk can mess you up bad. A lot of the proponents of raw milk claim that it can do things like help cure cancer and other diseases. Promoting raw milk to people in fragile health is a bad idea. Raw milk can carry micro-organisms including salmonellosis, and listeriosis.

State agencies are sensitive about supporting the raw milk industry because they don't want to be seen as approving or promoting something that has been granted unrealistic health claims and then be held accountable if there is a bacterial outbreak.
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I spent a week needing to be in close proximity to a toilet due to raw milk. I went to the doctor about this (it got that bad) and the first thing the dr. asked is whether I had consumed raw milk. Had to say yes.

So yeah, like Jujubes or haggis, it should be legal, but it will not pass my lips ever again.
posted by Danf at 6:50 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Raw milk is great if you, and everyone you live with and everyone who shares your fridge at work and everyone you breathe on and everyone who eats your stuff at the potluck etc have a healthy immune system...
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The laws against raw milk are a by-product of factory farming - or at least factory processing. When there were hundred of producers each supplying a few dozen families, it was easy to identify those who didn't maintain good sanitation standards. However, when you dump all the producers' milk into one big vat, the bacteria don't care where they originally came from, and happily reproduce throughout the entire lot.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:55 AM on November 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Let me just say that I am not a dairy expert, and this is entirely speculation on my part: but I have to wonder if the sanitation problems solved by pasteurization are far more likely to occur under factory-farming conditions, and not the small-farmer dairies that are likely to sell raw milk.

Now, I'll put on my tinfoil hat and take it one step further: if factory-farmed milk does require pasteurization to be a safe product, whereas milk from cows not living in those completely nasty conditions would not, I have to wonder if the whole "controversy" about raw milk has been generated by the big dairy companies, to eliminate what they perceive as a superior competitive product.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:57 AM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


people actually don't have a blanket right to drink what they want, at least not under the law of the land

But people in South Carolina do have the right to purchase and drink raw milk under the laws of that state. And unlike many people who reflexively think raw milk equals high risk, the people of South Carolina have actually come up with legislation that should be a model for the rest of the country.

Namely, they recognize that it is not the milk itself that can cause illness, but bacterial contamination that may be present. They recognize that it is possible, using modern sanitation and technological advances, to prevent the contamination from occurring in the first place. They also recognize that it is possible to test the milk and verify that no harmful pathogens are present, and have set very strict bacterial count levels. In fact, under the South Carolina laws, pasteurized milk is legally allowed to have much higher levels of live bacteria present after pasteurization is complete (and you don't want to even know the legal limits *before* pasteurization). Under their rules, raw milk is demonstrably safer than pasteurized milk.

So, the raw milk in South Carolina gets a USDA Grade A stamp, and is verified clean by the state of South Carolina. You can purchase it at regular grocery stores, right alongside "regular" milk. We happened to buy ours at the dairy itself, but we could have just as easily bought it at the local Kroger.

But then, after crossing the bridge to get back in Georgia, Georgia state officers searched my truck without a warrant, seized 110 gallons of milk belonging to 75 or so families (bought and paid for by them, and yes we had receipts in hand). They ordered me to hold the milk for four days on my truck, and then arrived at my farm with a federal officer from the FDA in tow and ordered us to dump all of the milk.

Regardless of your opinion of raw milk or your choice to drink it or not, it is clear we did not break federal or state law. It's equally clear that our constitutional rights were violated. We were in a position that at one end of a bridge, we could buy at a regular store a product that had state and federal stamps of approval, and at the other end of the bridge our vehicle was illegally searched and our purchases destroyed without due process.
posted by ewagoner at 6:59 AM on November 2, 2009 [43 favorites]


Or, what CheeseDigestsAll said.

(eponysterical?)
posted by deadmessenger at 7:00 AM on November 2, 2009


Raw milk is legal in England, but not in Scotland. Similarly, it's legal in South Carolina and illegal in Georgia.

Hey, what are you implying?
posted by chrismear at 7:00 AM on November 2, 2009


I have to wonder if the whole "controversy" about raw milk has been generated by the big dairy companies, to eliminate what they perceive as a superior competitive product.

I agree with the first part of your premise - that pastuerization is a requirement of industrial processing methods, for the reason that CheeseDigestsAll notes.

But the second part - the idea that industrial dairy operations fear competition - is not well supported. Big dairy doesn't need an elaborate and costly method to drive small producers out of business; they do it through a distribution monopoly and profit pressures that produce a race to the bottom.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


he says it tastes amazing.

It's definitely much heavier and creamier than what most of us are used to these days. When he was a child, my grandmother would scold my father for drinking all the cream off the top of the bottle; it's very easy to do that with a bottle of raw milk. OTOH, besides that, I can't really taste that much of a difference between, say, locally bottled raw milk and locally bottle pasteurized milk.

(is drinking raw milk and eating stoneground wheat biscuits right now)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2009


@chrismear ha! I'm implying nothing, as my family is Scottish. As for editorializing, I really tried hard to NOT editorialize and tried to choose my links carefully. Sorry if anyone feels otherwise. I thought that this was an interesting story, especially given that you can, for example, do the exact same thing (buy in SC or AL, come home to GA) with fireworks (with which you can blow off your hand), but no one I know has ever been treated similarly here for doing that.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2009


The laws against raw milk are a by-product of factory farming - or at least factory processing. When there were hundred of producers each supplying a few dozen families, it was easy to identify those who didn't maintain good sanitation standards.

Even if you have local producers who only serve hundreds, instead of thousands of people, raw milk was responsible for 25% of all reported food-borne illness in 1935. How widespread was factory processing of milk in huge batches in 1935?

Family farming doesn't necessarily equate to clean production practices.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


It must be local and totally unadultrated if it is to be real. Because you aren't getting actual authentic milk unless you are drinking it the way it was intended, with all the authentic taste and possibility of contracting disease (and passing on that disease to the general public) that our ancestors had.

You see, things aren't really real unless they are done the same way as they were done in the 12th century. That's why we need to get away from this false "germ theory" of disease which says that a lot of our illnesses come from bacteria and go back to the real way of practicing medicine, with leeches and stuff.

You see it is far more important to serve the desire for self-identification with authenticity and "realness" than it is to have "the Man" come down with all of these "rules" which are designed to keep people alive and from infecting one another with diseases. Because it is so uncool to do things the same as other people do--one has to find some way in which "modern souless culture" has destroyed the "real" way of doing things.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:11 AM on November 2, 2009 [31 favorites]


A history of milk production in the U.S.

1908
First compulsory pasteurization law (Chicago) applying to all milk except that from tuberculin tested cows

1938
First farm bulk tanks for milk began to replace milk cans

History of Pasteurization.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:15 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


OTOH, besides that, I can't really taste that much of a difference between, say, locally bottled raw milk and locally bottle pasteurized milk.

But what you are describing isn't the result of pasteurization, is it? It's homogenization. Unless the two are inextricably linked?
posted by DU at 7:16 AM on November 2, 2009


ewagoner: I see your issue and am certainly in support of your cause and deplore the waste of time and product, but I think the wording of the post was far too general in claiming people have a right to drink whatever they want.

It's that which I object too - the hyperbolic tone. It is counterproductive in that it makes people who would otherwise support local food start hearing alarm bells that we're just a bunch of cranks.

And I guess I'm a little unclear - is what you were doing - selling raw milk to people in Georgia - illegal under state law? It seems like it to me, but am I reading it wrongly? Do state food inspectors need a warrant in order to do their job - inspect food for sale? They don't need one where I live. I don't think they need a warrant to search a vehicle, either. They might just need the probable cause evidenced by your customers and advertising.

Don't get me wrong - I think the whole boondoggle sucks. We've had a similar issue with locally processed chicken up in NH. And I see that you made efforts to feel you were operating within the law. But the state feels it's operating within its laws, too. The law does say "The state has banned the stale [sic] of raw milk for human consumption," and you were selling raw milk for human consumption. It says the state considers it "unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or otherwise dispense" raw milk. It doesn't look like the law respects differences between private sale and public offering here. There's no distinction between contract buying and market sales mentioned. Even if you traded it for something and charged no money, you'd have been "otherwise dispensing."

It seems like time to lawyer up, recognizing that they might in fact have you. I understand why you took the risk, but it looks like the interpretation of this law is not on your side. Again, I'm not hostile to your ultimate aims - I'm very active in the local food movement - but this kind of thing can definitely happen when running afoul of existing statute. That's why it's important to obsessively meet the letter of the law when dealing in agricultural products, and work to change the law where needed. The state may be making an example of you; with any luck, you can make an example of your case and agitate in Georgia for a change in the raw milk provisions among your community of buyers and supporters.

But as a veteran of some of these kinds of batteles, I think your stance will appear much better in the press and in the public eye if you take the line "This is wasteful and creates a bad business climate; it's time for the law to change" as opposed to the line "I'm aggrieved, my rights were violated by the Man."
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nice sneer, Ironmouth, but perhaps you missed the part where this milk is certified safe using this "germ theory" you speak of.

You know, the primary cause of e coli contamination of ground beef is contaminated shit on the hides getting pushed down into the meat during the butchering process. There is a movement afoot to "pasteurize" all meat products by running them through irradiation machines. Might kill the e coli, sure, but in the end you still have shit in your meat. Myself, I'd rather use science to help keep the shit out to begin with.
posted by ewagoner at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


There was a big scandal in Toronto because this dude who was selling raw milk to the stupid granola moms that live in my area got busted. There are some things that are worth getting worked up about. Not being able to drink raw milk shouldn't be one of them.
posted by chunking express at 7:21 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Miko, if you let your neighbor know you're running to the store, and he gives you $4 and asks you to pick up a gallon of milk for him, are you then selling him milk when you return home?

That is what we were doing. Yes, selling raw milk is illegal in Georgia, but no one was selling raw milk in Georgia.

And yes, we're lawyering up.
posted by ewagoner at 7:21 AM on November 2, 2009


It's definitely much heavier and creamier than what most of us are used to these days. When he was a child, my grandmother would scold my father for drinking all the cream off the top of the bottle; it's very easy to do that with a bottle of raw milk. OTOH, besides that, I can't really taste that much of a difference between, say, locally bottled raw milk and locally bottle pasteurized milk.

That's right - the flavor difference is due to small batch production, not to pastuerization. Pasteurizing doesn't change the flavor of fresh milk in a noticeable way. But industrial production separates the milkfat out more effectively, and the milk is also usually a lot less rich because of the animals' feed.
posted by Miko at 7:22 AM on November 2, 2009


Miko, if you let your neighbor know you're running to the store, and he gives you $4 and asks you to pick up a gallon of milk for him, are you then selling him milk when you return home?

In the eyes of the law, I believe that's a yes.

Yes, selling raw milk is illegal in Georgia, but no one was selling raw milk in Georgia.


How do you figure?
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on November 2, 2009


How do you figure?

You're the first person who has ever told me picking up a gallon milk at the store for your neighbor, with his money, would constitute selling him a gallon of milk. We actually went beyond that (the customer ordered the milk directly from the dairy, for example, without my involvement), but given your interpretation of "selling" I guess you have me.
posted by ewagoner at 7:28 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but the interstate trade laws are also relevant here under the FDA rule Medieval Maven linked:
(a) No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate
commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or
other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk
or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption
unless the product has been pasteurized or or is made from dairy
ingredients (milk or milk products) that have all been
pasteurized, except where alternative procedures to pasteurization
are provided for by regulation, such as in part 133 of this
chapter for curing of certain cheese varieties.
...and IANAL, but I think in general where you make interstate sales, it's not the state the seller or product originates in, nor the state where the cash is processed, whose rules apply; it's the state where the product is dispensed.

I guess you have me.

I'm not trying to trap you, or anything. It's just that I think you really have a pitched battle. I think you will have a very hard time arguing that the law wasn't broken or that you were operating within regulations.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


As someone who was once very seriously ill as the result of drinking raw unpasteurized milk (straight from the cow, I often saw it being milked at the local farm I would collect it from), there's more to this than some desire to get back to more "natural" milk. (Is it really natural to drink food that's intended for calves, not humans, in any case?)

Agribusiness may be using health regulations for their own benefit, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a good reason for regulating raw milk. If you are going to hope that the market weeds out the small firms that don't have good hygiene, you're going to have sick consumers before the careless suppliers exit the market.
posted by Grinder at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


But industrial production separates the milkfat out more effectively

And this is done on purpose: that milkfat can then be sold as more butter->profit!

Unscrupulous dairies tend to skim the milk right up to the legal limits. To prevent outright watering down of the milk, there's usually a legally prescribed minimum protein content. It is just to cheat those protein content tests that several Chinese dairies tampered their (obviously watered-down) milk with melamine, to well-known results (dead babies and a collapse of the global milk market).

In fact, I must wonder whether the whole fad for skimmed and semi-skimmed milk isn't just a well-calculated marketing move by the dairy industry to charge consumers twice for the same product, first as skimmed milk, and then as butter or cream...
posted by Skeptic at 7:36 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's not the state the seller or product originates in, nor the state where the cash is processed, whose rules apply; it's the state where the product is dispensed

I agree with you. The product originated in South Carolina. The cash was processed in South Carolina. The product was dispensed in South Carolina. There was no interstate commerce going on.

Had the dairy, or an agent of the dairy, brought the milk over to Georgia, then yes there would have been a violation of the FDA rule. But that's not what happened.

Two of those gallons were my own, picked up by my wife. Are you saying that the FDA has the authority to come to my house and destroy something I legally purchased, just because I crossed a bridge after I bought them? The other 108 gallons aside, that's exactly what happened. The FDA agent at my house specifically ordered me to destroy those two gallons, even when I set them aside from the rest.
posted by ewagoner at 7:37 AM on November 2, 2009


You're the first person who has ever told me picking up a gallon milk at the store for your neighbor, with his money, would constitute selling him a gallon of milk.

Try it with alcohol or cigarettes and see how far you get.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Or fireworks. Or firearms.
posted by Miko at 7:41 AM on November 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


the whole fad for skimmed and semi-skimmed milk ...

I know lots of people who drink skimmed milk or 2%. They do so because they don't want to have heart-attacks.
posted by chunking express at 7:41 AM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Seems from the info presented here that ewagoner and his neighbors found a legit loophole, and that the government officials overstepped. We'll see if that gets validated in court.

I know folks in North Carolina who do something similar with raw cheese; they get together to buy share in cows and they can be considered owners and enjoy the deliciousness of raw cheese.
posted by mediareport at 7:41 AM on November 2, 2009


Can you be clearer about what happened, ewagoner? I can't load the podcast at work, and from your note on Athens Locally Grown the order of events is unclear to me. So, if you can spell it out like

1. The milk originated at a dairy in South Carolina.
2. Customers in Georgia placed orders for the milk.
3. ...?

...it would help me to understand your claim better.
posted by Miko at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2009


Try it with alcohol or cigarettes and see how far you get.

You'd get pretty far, unless your neighbor is underage. That is a separate and specific crime. Going on a beer and smokes run is not.
posted by ewagoner at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2009


I recently bought some raw milk from a farm in Western Massachusetts. There was a big label slapped on the jug explaining that the milk had not been pasteurized, and letting me know that pasteurization is good for many reasons, and letting me know that I might get sick from drinking the milk in the jug. I asked the farmer a few questions, which she answered straighforwardly. In short -- I made an informed decision and assumed the risk myself.

I would be in favor of restrictions that require full-disclosure about the possible dangers and limited proven benefits of raw milk, but I don't think it needs to be banned. Encouraging people to get closer to their food (I was glad, for example, to look across the pasture and see the cows whose milk I was buying happily grazing about on an ample grass-covered hillside) is always a good thing in my book. Also good is letting people make their own informed decisions. We do it with alchohol and guns and cigarettes, and I consider those things to be far more dangerous than raw milk.

If you're going to trust the raw milk you buy, you need to trust the farmer who's selling it to you. This encourages face-to-face interaction between suppliers and customers. Building real relationships of trust up and down the food supply chain is a big plus.

Also -- this milk was incredible. Better than any milk I have ever had. Made some delicious yogurt, mashed potatoes, cookie accompaniment.
posted by cubby at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


chungking express I understand, and I do drink semi-skimmed myself. However, if somebody is on one hand drinking skimmed milk and on the other hand eating plenty of butter and cream, either directly or in processed food (as must often be the case, looking at dairy consumption statistics), then he isn't doing any favours to either his body or his wallet...
posted by Skeptic at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2009


In fact, I must wonder whether the whole fad for skimmed and semi-skimmed milk isn't just a well-calculated marketing move by the dairy industry to charge consumers twice for the same product, first as skimmed milk, and then as butter or cream...

Nothing tastes better than a hot English muffin with cold whole milk poured all over it.
posted by DU at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


ewagoner and his neighbors found a legit loophole

That's what I'm questioning - is it a legit loophole? In NH we do have one: raw milk can be sold person to person privately. It just can't be sold in markets or in stores or on public property. So our local raw-milk dealer parks a sales truck in various driveways around town. That seems to honor the law sufficiently for everyone to be placid about it.

I'm just not clear that's what's happening in GA.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2009


One of my bestest memories are of the two summers I spent during high school as a farm hand. We would regularly help bale hay for an old farmer and his wife. After a long hot day baling and putting the hay up in the loft, the farmer's wife would reward us with a plate of home-made doughnuts and a pitcher of ice-cold, raw milk, fresh from the cow that very morning. Good lord, that was a bit of heaven.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2009


No, it actually is illegal to cross state lines to buy beer or cigarettes in many states, and often the state laws will specify exactly how much you can buy before trafficking law kicks in.
posted by Miko at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2009


My younger brother is involved in an illegal raw milk ring. Every week, Amish people deliver raw milk to his doorstep. I have no idea how much it costs (and neither does he, because his girlfriend's parents pay for it [they're the ones that got him hooked on the stuff, so I hope they'll continue to be his benefactors]).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:49 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


For a great analysis of the crackdown on raw milk, check out The Raw Milk Revolution, just released last week.

Regulators can no longer claim this as a health issue. It is easier to buy tobacco than it is to buy raw milk. Raw fish has even more potential for harboring pathogens than milk. PASTUERIZED milk killed three people in my state two years ago due to poor sanitation in the plant, but there were no laws passed to put labels on all pasteurized milk warning consumers that they could die. Similarly spinach, peanut butter, and on and on, ad nauseum.

This is a rights issue. Consumers want a product, farmers can produce that product, regulators can set standards for how that product is kept clean and handled.

I run the raw milk network in my state, where it is legal to buy the stuff directly from farmers. I'd be willing to eat off the floor of the milkroom at any of the farms I work with, they're that clean and careful. Milk in the tank at a farm that's selling into the federal milk pool for pasteurization is a whole 'nother story. I wouldn't even want it AFTER it's been boiled to death......
posted by Framer at 7:51 AM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Miko, if you let your neighbor know you're running to the store, and he gives you $4 and asks you to pick up a gallon of milk for him, are you then selling him milk when you return home?

Uh, you really think this analogy holds up for 75 "neighbors" and a 110 gallons of milk, repeatedly in an organized effort?

I'm not a lawyer either and as a locavore foodie I agree that maybe South Carolina's approach is more reasoned, but I really think you should have (or hope you did) consulted a qualified lawyer before you decided to interpret interstate trade laws.
posted by drpynchon at 7:54 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'd get pretty far, unless your neighbor is underage. That is a separate and specific crime. Going on a beer and smokes run is not.

Cops will hang out around the MD-VA border to catch people going down to VA to buy cigarettes where it's cheaper and bring them back into MD. If someone were to patiently explain to the cop that they weren't actually buying a truck full of cigarettes, just going on a cigarette run and transporting them across state lines to their "friends", I'm not so sure the cop would buy it.
posted by stavrogin at 7:59 AM on November 2, 2009


As long as we can all agree that UHT milk is shite.
posted by kersplunk at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pasteurization definitely changes the taste of goat milk, and homogenization tends to remove the colostrum, which is beneficial. Pasteurization is absolutely a major step in food production and health, but there is a need for non-pasteurized dairy, if only for very small scale. A lot of people have goats here, as well as a few chickens. It's possible to eat non-pasteurized eggs and goat milk (and cheese) most of the year here. It's legal to sell non-pasteurized milk here, mostly because of so many dairy farmers (cattle), but you rarely find it in stores. Mostly you buy/barter it from neighbors or "grow your own." I understand that there has to be a standard as far as food production and safety, but neighbors buying eggs from each other should be left unregulated, as long as it's small scale.

I buy raw goat milk to make soap, and so I always have a good supply around, though most of it is frozen for storage. Good stuff. The Meyenberg brand you can get at most health food stores doesn't really come close, but a lot of it has to do with the fat consistency and what happens when you break it down with heat. It's sweeter before pasteurization, and it's creamier, but I do pasteurize before making cheese (usually chevre), just because I'm not all that sure I'm clean enough to be doing semi-soft unpasteurized cheese right. I think chevre is better pasteurized, but some aged cheeses are better without. There's no need to pasteurize it to make soap, so I don't bother with that.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:08 AM on November 2, 2009


Oh yeah, and I agree, it's quite necessary to have unpasteurized milk to make the world's great cheeses.
posted by Miko at 8:20 AM on November 2, 2009


Nice sneer, Ironmouth, but perhaps you missed the part where this milk is certified safe using this "germ theory" you speak of.

The guy in Georgia is certified safe by state food inspectors? OK, I take it back . . . What? You say he's avoiding state food inspections because what he's doing is illegal in the State of Georgia?

So who is doing the "certifying?"

No matter what, I do not believe it right to circumvent the food safety laws. Work towards their repeal, yes, but break them, no.

And this isn't a question of a victimless crime either. Because people with diseases from bacterial vectors are vectors for disease. You drink, you smoke pot, you do meth, whatever. Its only when you take the second act of getting behind the wheel where people get hurt. And gay marriage doesn't cut into a limited number of marriage licenses and deprive straights of getting married.

But disease operates by itself. Once you are infected, the diseases in you try and move to another host.

Mind you, I've had 'raw milk' long before it was termed that. My friend was married to a Mennonite in Iowa and they had a powered milk operation (not all Mennonite/Amish are the same). One night I was staying over with my friend and we decided to get some milk and walked out to the barn, where there was a spigot. Yes the milk tasted incredible. But that's because it was super fresh and cold, not because it wasn't pasteurized. You see, milk doesn't keep. That's why we need pasturization.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:26 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've read in cheesemaking books that one cannot make homemade cheese (cow or goat) without raw milk, since it has properties that help actually make the cheese. Don't know if it's true or not.

I'm all for getting closer to one's food. Luckily, there seems to be an national effort to make raw milk more legal at Real Milk.
posted by Melismata at 8:26 AM on November 2, 2009


there should not be any significant difference in taste between bacteriologically safe raw milk and pasteurised milk

Trust me, there is. I grew up on a dairy farm, drinking raw cow's milk since before I could crawl. Until I was 5 years old, my parents had to get me chocolate milk if we went to a restaurant, because I wouldn't drink the funny tasting (pasteurized & homoginized) milk. The taste is noticably different, not the least of which is the fact that what the law and retail markets consider "whole" milk is 3.5% butterfat, and the stuff my father's cows produced was over 5%.
posted by fings at 8:27 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh, you really think this analogy holds up for 75 "neighbors" and a 110 gallons of milk, repeatedly in an organized effort?

I'm not a lawyer either


I am a lawyer and that's illegal. Just calling it picking it up for a neighbor doesn't change the violation of the act. Day 1 1L crim law some idiot always brings up this type of dodge and it is shot down in the first three seconds.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If a state has a specific prohibition about crossing state lines to purchase beer or cigarettes, then yes, doing that would be a crime. Georgia does not have a prohibition on traveling to South Carolina to buy milk.

Milo: Here's the timeline: We've been doing this for eight years (five with dairy), and have been told by legal counsel and by state agents themselves that everything we were doing was following both the letter and spirit of the laws.
posted by ewagoner at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2009


The taste is noticably different,

Right, but again, that's due to the production method, not the heating and cooling of the milk.
posted by Miko at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2009


Miko: beer and cigarette trafficking laws generally relate to taxation. The state you're bringing them to (probably) has higher taxes for these "sin" products, and doesn't want someone cutting into their revenue by importing large quantities. This is possibly the closest comparison example, but as you say, the laws are very explicit, down to the exact amount you are allowed to cross state lines with.

The fireworks and firearms examples you mentioned upthread are also different. Most states that prohibit the sale of fireworks also prohibit their possession and use. So if you buy fireworks out of state and bring them home, you're not breaking distribution laws, but simple possession laws. Firearms are pretty strictly controlled and tracked, and I suspect that states that care whether you buy a gun out of state care because you have bought a gun that isn't legal in your home state, or because you haven't registered it properly.

None of those examples really match what's going on here, though. I can't see how any sale or distribution has hapened. And "distribution," let's be clear, doesn't mean "giving away" or "parcelling out" -- it specifically means resale. Think liquor distributors: they buy wholesale in bulk and sell the product on to stores for retail sale. If the state of Georgia wants to ban consumption or possession of raw milk, they need to go ahead and do that. But until that day, assuming Athens Locally Grown has kept excellent records (and it sounds like they have) my money would be on Eric winning his court case.
posted by rusty at 8:33 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


and by state agents themselves

I hope you have those names written down somewhere.
posted by mediareport at 8:35 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


"distribution," let's be clear, doesn't mean "giving away" or "parcelling out" -- it specifically means resale.

It seems to me that the whole thing hangs on what the clause "otherwise disperse" is interpreted to mean.
posted by Miko at 8:35 AM on November 2, 2009


Oops, it's "otherwise dispense." The language is:

"unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or otherwise dispense"

"Offer for sale" may be in play too.
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2009


You see, milk doesn't keep. That's why we need pasturization.

Yeah, I think we get it. It's just that people should have the option. It's possible to keep food uncontaminated, and it's possible to regulate unpasteurized dairy. Salmonella from eggs is only on the outside, and raw eggs have a natural antibody which protects them. You're fine as long as you don't wash the eggs until you use them. Industrial production has actually helped to introduce salmonella into the inside of the egg, where it never was before, which is why you're not supposed to eat raw eggs anymore. Ruins a good Ceasar salad.

People with compromised immune systems shouldn't do a lot of things, but we all shouldn't have to live as if we had that problem.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:41 AM on November 2, 2009


I don't see "offer for sale" -- since he says people are dealing directly with the producer themselves. But "otherwise dispense," yeah, it seems like it may depend on what that means. Of course, as usual in internet law discussions, I Am Not A Lawyer, and this may all be open and shut in the eyes of that unique profession.
posted by rusty at 8:42 AM on November 2, 2009


I don't see "offer for sale" -- since he says people are dealing directly with the producer themselves.

It's going to depend on whether or not it matters if the cash exchange has already taken place, or if delivering counts as part of the offering.

Of course, as usual in internet law discussions, I Am Not A Lawyer, and this may all be open and shut in the eyes of that unique profession.

It could be. We'll see!
posted by Miko at 8:44 AM on November 2, 2009


Any law that prevents me from having real clotted cream is a bad law.
posted by tzikeh at 8:45 AM on November 2, 2009


because I wouldn't drink the funny tasting (pasteurized & homoginized) milk. The taste is noticably different, not the least of which is the fact that what the law and retail markets consider "whole" milk is 3.5% butterfat, and the stuff my father's cows produced was over 5%.

Well, that's why I said that there should not be any difference. When I was a child we got our milk per daily delivery from a small local dairy, and, although pasteurised, it was also much, much better (and richer) than any other milk I've ever drunk since. When we occasionally ran out and had to get milk from the supermarket (and there was only UHT milk widely available in Spanish supermarkets at the time) I spat it out. Not even chocolate helped to swallow down that stuff.

The difference in taste doesn't arise from pasteurisation, if it's done right. It's homogenisation which may change the taste, but above all sharp practices by dairies to literally skim from the milk as many nutrients as they can within the legal limits (and sometimes beyond them).
posted by Skeptic at 8:48 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


the whole fad for skimmed and semi-skimmed milk ...

I know lots of people who drink skimmed milk or 2%. They do so because they don't want to have heart-attacks.


If they think that the difference between 4% milkfat and 2% milkfat is going to keep them from developing plaque in their arteries I wouldn't place bets on their longevity.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:51 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Do state food inspectors need a warrant in order to do their job - inspect food for sale?

they don't in michigan - i work at a plant that makes containers for food and 2 or 3 times a year, they just show up, with no warrant and we have to deal with it

---

"unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or otherwise dispense"

if you give it to someone, you're dispensing it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2009


I hate to say it, but the raw milk sale methods I've seen here remind me of how these "pay no taxes" people use "letter of the law" exceptions to try and get around the IRS, and it never ends well.

Buying a gallon of milk for your neighbor is essentially the same thing as buying 75 gallons for people. The difference is that the state could give a rip if you brought one gallon over, but 75 gallons, that's distribution.

As for the "it's all about taxation" issues with transporting alcohol and tobacco, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol used to stop people at the Texas border they suspected of transporting beer across the lines, because at the time only 3.2 beer was legal in the state. Nothing to do with taxation, just "health concerns."

And on pasteurization -- yes, actually, it does taste a little different. There's a slight "cooked" taste, and the proteins are slightly denatured. But that's mainly because they use high-temperature pasteurization at these big dairies. There's also a low-temperature process that doesn't have the "cooked" taste or radically affect the milk (other than killing the germs off), but it takes hours to do it rather than the minutes of flash pasteurization.
posted by dw at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2009


ewagoner, I don't mean this as snark. I know you're pissed off. But if you're actually facing some nontrivial chance of real prosecution on this matter, you really should:

(1) Hire a lawyer
(2) Shut the fuck up and stop telling the entire fucking universe about how your plan to circumvent the law functions
(3) Ask the mods to delete your comments in this thread
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:59 AM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


ewagoner, good luck with all this. I live in California, where raw milk is legal and available in stores. I don't drink it - milk goes in my coffee and the occasional bowl of cereal, and it seems dumb to use the (more expensive) raw milk just for that - but oh, what I wouldn't give to be able to eat a good raw-milk cheese again. One aged less than 60 days, that is. Stupid FDA.
posted by rtha at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2009


None of those examples really match what's going on here, though. I can't see how any sale or distribution has hapened. And "distribution," let's be clear, doesn't mean "giving away" or "parcelling out" -- it specifically means resale.

To be fair, under most legal definitions, even giving away product is considered distribution. It's not really about the profit.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nothing to do with taxation, just "health concerns."

Right - I think my point, more generally, is not why the states regulate trade across borders, but that they can do it where not restricted by federal law, for whatever reasons they want. There's no stipulation that regulations have to relate to taxation, possession, or anything like that.

And ewagoner, I do agree with ROUXenophobe that the existence of this thread may become a nuisance to you if this gets more serious.

And for the record, I know it seems I'm taking a hostile approach, but it's because I think this is a pretty serious situation and that you should approach it legalistically with the help of professional lawyers. I do hope that you prevail and go on to change the law. I'm definitely on the side of better, smaller-scale, less processed products being available to the public. But I know that it can be just awful when small producers and/or distributors run afoul of the law. This is such a harsh way to experience that.
posted by Miko at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate to say it, but the raw milk sale methods I've seen here remind me of how these "pay no taxes" people use "letter of the law" exceptions to try and get around the IRS, and it never ends well.

No, I disagree. I think they need to get everything down as far as the law is concerned, but there is no clever trickery being done for the sake of someone trying to sell a book, which is simply playing off people's greed. This is borne of a desire to determine one's own choices as far as food. There are some legal issues I think have been glossed over a bit, but these aren't people trying to get away without paying their share.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:08 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


(1) Hire a lawyer
(2) Shut the fuck up and stop telling the entire fucking universe about how your plan to circumvent the law functions
(3) Ask the mods to delete your comments in this thread


Seriously. I would even do steps 2 and 3 before step 1.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on November 2, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe: The growers at my market have been circumventing the dairy laws in the same way 401(k) managers circumvent tax laws. That is, not at all.

Trust me, there are plenty of easy ways to try and get around the law -- it only takes a $75 certificate for a person with a cow to sell raw milk for pets in Georgia. We've been working hard, openly, and within the law to make sure Athens-area residents have access to safe raw milk. I'm not going to hide because two agents (one from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and one from the FDA) have suddenly decided that what was occurring is illegal.

I have told those USDA Grade A raw milk dairies in South Carolina that they can no longer list their milk on my website until the lawyers and judges issue definitive rulings. In the meantime, the entire universe is welcome to learn about what we do, what happened two weeks ago, and how we move forward from here. I am not afraid.
posted by ewagoner at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


"I do hope that you prevail and go on to change the law. I'm definitely on the side of better, smaller-scale, less processed products being available to the public. But I know that it can be just awful when small producers and/or distributors run afoul of the law. This is such a harsh way to experience that."

I agree with what Miko is saying here - especially how harsh it can be for those who run afoul of the law. Still, I wonder what it might take to really change the relevant laws (in the US where I live). Its a big fight with a lot a huge corporate interests at stake, all very much aligned against smaller operations. I really applaud those who are bravely just going ahead and working around or even openly against laws that may take a lot of struggle to change:

-It builds awareness and support for change
-It demonstrates in a concrete way how things can and are working better for some people
-It's a way to bring people together around this issue who might otherwise remain divided (lots of folks like raw milk, even if they don't agree on other stuff)
posted by cubby at 9:18 AM on November 2, 2009


If they think that the difference between 4% milkfat and 2% milkfat is going to keep them from developing plaque in their arteries I wouldn't place bets on their longevity.

Clearly this is what I meant. Does talking about Milk make you angry?
posted by chunking express at 9:18 AM on November 2, 2009


Buying a gallon of milk for your neighbor is essentially the same thing as buying 75 gallons for people. The difference is that the state could give a rip if you brought one gallon over, but 75 gallons, that's distribution.

Distribution is distribution, but some states do distinguish small and large-scale distribution and treat them differently. Some states allow raw dairy sales direct from the farm.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:23 AM on November 2, 2009


I wonder what it might take to really change the relevant laws (in the US where I live).

One way I suggest is to work with and through your local and state economic development engines. It's in your state's interest to recapture some economic activity currently going to large producers out of state, and in your municipality's interest to increase the tax base. It's also within your region's interest to increase its food security by building skills and knowhow at the local and regional level, so your population isn't entirely dependent on imported goods.

If you don't have a Local-First group yet, start one (my favorite networking group for this is BALLE, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, who we work with in my neck of the woods to support our program Seacoast Local). These groups are powerful vehicles for addressing local and state policy that needs changing, and bringing grassroots activists into direct conversation with policymakers.
posted by Miko at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2009


Clearly this is what I meant. Does talking about Milk make you angry?

Does your concern about someone's feelings matter?
posted by krinklyfig at 9:25 AM on November 2, 2009


None of those examples really match what's going on here, though. I can't see how any sale or distribution has hapened. And "distribution," let's be clear, doesn't mean "giving away" or "parcelling out" -- it specifically means resale.

My old legal writing teacher once told me that whenever somebody uses the word "clear" it means that it is anything but clear. And it is not clear here.

When examining a statute or regulation, one starts not by looking at the specific section, but the definitions section which is found at the beginning of the subchapter or, as here the part. Then one turns to the "canons of construction" and the process of statutory construction in general.

And this is what the definition section says here:

"§ 1240.3 General definitions.
top
As used in this part, terms shall have the following meaning: . . .

(e) Conveyance. Conveyance means any land or air carrier, or any vessel as defined in paragraph (n) of this section. . .

(h) Interstate traffic. (1) The movement of any conveyance or the transportation of persons or property, including any portion of such movement or transportation which is entirely within a State or possession,

(i) From a point of origin in any State or possession to a point of destination in any other State or possession, or

(ii) Between a point of origin and a point of destination in the same State or possession but through any other State, possession, or contiguous foreign country."


So not a word in the definitions section on what the word "distribution" means. Which usually means the government can drive a truck through it. That's because a government agency is given deference as to what its regulations mean. see Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).

Now lets look at the operative part of the actual regulation:

"§ 1240.61 Mandatory pasteurization for all milk and milk products in final package form intended for direct human consumption.
top
(a) No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized or is made from dairy ingredients (milk or milk products) that have all been pasteurized, except where alternative procedures to pasteurization are provided for by regulation"


"Interstate Commerce" is one of the biggest hooks in the law. A hotel cannot discriminate against African-Americans because it could be used in "interstate commerce." The entire regulatory appartus of the Federal Government is built on that. Pharmaceuticals, telepohones, anti-discrimination, kidnapping, all of it. No court is gonna look nice at avoiding the law.

In statutory construction, one looks at the terms around a term to figure out its meaning. Thus, to analyze the term "distribute" just look at the terms around it. They are "delivered," "sell," "hold for sale" or "other distribution." Distrubution likely means distrubution other than selling, because selling is already described. The drafter thus meant to describe distribution as other than selling because he or she made a category other than selling, calling it "distribution."

So distribution is not selling. Nor is the claim that it is backed up by either a definition or basic statutory construction.

Get a lawyer now. This isn't good. The FDA has seen every which way of getting out of this and you are most likely in need of serious legal advice immediately.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


More importantly, it is the dairymen themselves who are really going to feel the heat. They are putting this into interstate commerce also and for bigger bucks.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2009


Get a lawyer now.

Moreover, I'd add "and make sure he's good too." How can you distinguish a good lawyer from a bad one? Well, his price may be an indication...or not. But a good lawyer, in my book, is one that isn't going to nod to everything you tell him, but instead is going to grill you and be ready to tell you that you are wrong.
posted by Skeptic at 9:47 AM on November 2, 2009


there is a good general argument that states and the federal government have a responsibility to protect public health - people actually don't have a blanket right to drink what they want, at least not under the law of the land

The chief laws of the land are found in the Constitution, which gives the federal government the responsibility to regulate interstate sales, presumably including drinks, but not intrastate sales. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments should then make it particularly clear that the federal government doesn't even have the right to prevent people from drinking what they want, much less the responsibility.

The Eighteenth Amendment was enacted specifically to give the federal government the power to decide what intoxicants people can drink, but this power never applied to non-intoxicating drinks, and even such limited authority was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment.

Of course, in modern legal practice it's recognized that the federal government has the power to do nearly anything it can find a barely plausible loophole for. Under this new theory, the prohibition amendments must have been merely a sort of fun intricate kabuki that everyone played with no actual legal effects. That doesn't even pass the giggle test, and so it's tempting to think that such a naked power grab is the subject of frequent amusement in private discussions among the recipients of that power. But, since the premise of unlimited federal power seems to be taken seriously even among the powerless, I suspect that even the judges and legislators who should know better don't think about it much.
posted by roystgnr at 9:51 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Family farming doesn't necessarily equate to clean production practices.

Of course not, and that wasn't my point. Also, I don't think that sanitation practices in 1935 are exactly relevant today, either. In France, where raw milk cheeses are common, the incidence of listeria is on the order of 3 cases per million people, only marginally higher (0.5 cases/million) than the US.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The chief laws of the land are found in the Constitution, which gives the federal government the responsibility to regulate interstate sales, presumably including drinks, but not intrastate sales.

The federal government has the power to create agencies which oversee agricultural policy and food safety, and those agencies are regulated by legislation - it is these to which I am primarily referring.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The chief laws of the land are found in the Constitution, which gives the federal government the responsibility to regulate interstate sales, presumably including drinks, but not intrastate sales. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments should then make it particularly clear that the federal government doesn't even have the right to prevent people from drinking what they want, much less the responsibility.

Your interpretation is incorrect and not the state of the law. Anything that could be put into interstate commerce can be regulated. But your interpretation of what the regulation does is also incorrect. Note that it does not ban anyone from drinking anything. It merely bars anyone from distributing unpasturized milk over state lines. Thus the regulation is entirely constitutional. This is really basic stuff. Just read the regulation.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


GOOGLE LOUIS PASTEUR
posted by matteo at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


Dunno about this raw milk stuff - I just want whatever the hell it is they've got in Mexico. I bought some milk in Mexico and was informed I could leave the damned carton sitting out on the shelf for weeks. It needed no refrigeration and it tasted fine. I dubbed it Magic Mexican Milk and I drank a metric ton of the stuff while down south.
Why, oh why, can't we have magic mexican milk here in the U.S.? My refrigerator is small and milk goes bad so quickly.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2009


I'd love to get raw milk here, and unfortunately I'm in Atlanta. Bah. Still ... legal and "as fresh as you can get it" is good enough for me. I'd travel to Athens more often for that.
posted by neewom at 10:36 AM on November 2, 2009


Aside from the legal issues here, it seems like the state of the US market, where you can have states right next to each other where one prohibits all raw milk and the other doesn't, would lend itself nicely to a study comparing the apparent health effects of raw milk itself. Anyone know whether this has been done?

Also, I live in ME where apparently raw milk is perfectly legal, if labeled. I never even knew.
posted by rusty at 10:38 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Baby_Balrog: What you want is called shelf-stable milk, and it's been around for ages. You hardly ever see anyone buy it in the US for some reason, but I had it in France way back in 1993. You can probably get it online, if no store in your area caries it, but I bet someplace does.

The stuff I had n France, which was probably Parmalat, was really good.
posted by rusty at 10:42 AM on November 2, 2009


Dunno about this raw milk stuff - I just want whatever the hell it is they've got in Mexico. I bought some milk in Mexico and was informed I could leave the damned carton sitting out on the shelf for weeks. It needed no refrigeration and it tasted fine

Sounds like UHT milk. Its popular in Europe as well.

The solution to a lot of this stuff would be irradiation but I think the ionization kills a lot of the happy-feelly.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:52 AM on November 2, 2009


Why, oh why, can't we have magic mexican milk here in the U.S.?

Look in the grocery store around where the powdered milk is; you should see boxes marked with "UHT" for ultra-high temperature pasteurization. At least, I've seen them in every grocery store here in Seattle.

UHT really does bring in the "cooked" taste, but because of the heat and the caramelization that can happen at that temperature, it actually makes the milk a little sweeter, which is not a bad thing.
posted by dw at 10:56 AM on November 2, 2009


freakin' irradiate that stuff, man! I drink like a cup of a milk a month. I can't be spendin all my time going and getting milk. Irradiate everything! Why the hell aren't we doing this with every piece of food ever? good god I've gotten poisoned by so many shitty chicago diners they should just park the irradiator right in the sky over lincoln park and zap every burrito joint in a three square mile radius.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:57 AM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


raw milk was responsible for 25% of all reported food-borne illness in 1935

Well, if you're truly interested in validating those figures you'll probably want to wade through Raw Milk: What the Scientific Literature Really Says (pdf, 132pp):

"Within this response, we will first offer a critical review of the literature implicating raw milk in foodborne outbreaks, highlighting the numerous forms of bias present in these reports; we will next summarize the conclusions that can be made from this literature in favor of the use of raw milk; we will then conclude the first part of our response by answering those two questions posed above, showing that raw milk does not present any unique dangers and arguing that this is indeed a choice that producers and consumers must be free to make."
posted by symbollocks at 10:58 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Our office gets Paramalt milk for coffee. That stuff can sit on a shelf for ages. It freaks me the fuck out, but sure enough, it tastes like milk. My brother lives in the UK now and says he can't drink the milk in Canada anymore. Apparently the milk he buys in London barely lasts a week. Our mutant milk that lasts almost a month is weird.
posted by chunking express at 11:00 AM on November 2, 2009


good god I've gotten poisoned by so many shitty chicago diners they should just park the irradiator right in the sky over lincoln park and zap every burrito joint in a three square mile radius.

Ah, sometimes I forget why I changed my diet and cook almost all my own food now from raw ingredients. Eating a shit diet gets harder on you as you get older.

I think it's funny that people are hysterical about potential food poisoning from raw milk, when clearly a lot of people have had food poisoning from other sources that they feel perfectly safe eating, or safe enough at the time to risk it.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:05 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Raw milk is just a gimmic. I'm not saying raw milk doesn't taste better then regular milk, but the fact that it is "raw" has nothing to do with that. That's just a gimmic so that hippies think there is something special about their milk (and themselves).

At the end of the day ask yourself how it feels to be pregnant your whole life and what sort of life the calf born is leading next time you sip your raw milk.
posted by carfilhiot at 11:11 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I see a lot of talk in this thread about "people should be allowed to decide if they want to accept the risk". This sounds a lot like the same claim made by the anti-vax nuts. But maybe drinking raw milk doesn't endanger anyone except yourself and the comparison is unfair?

The public health issue is that tuberculosis and typhoid will always be present in raw milk, even if in statistically small amounts.

No, it's fair. More than fair, really, because typhoid is a disease where a carrier can appear healthy. If you get typhoid from raw milk and then get my kids sick, that's not good. This stuff needs to be pasteurized, which doesn't even affect the taste. If you don't like it, you and Jenny McCarthy can found your own anti-modern-medicine island or something.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on November 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Well, if you're truly interested in validating those figures you'll probably want to wade through Raw Milk: What the Scientific Literature Really Says (pdf, 132pp):

If you're truly interested in validating those figures, I'd suggest an unbiased source.
posted by electroboy at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd suggest an unbiased source.

Yeah, good luck finding one of those. The more realistic suggestion is to read a variety of reports from different sources and examine the science yourself.
posted by mediareport at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2009


Anything that could be put into interstate commerce can be regulated.

Yes, this was the "prohibition amendments were kabuki" interpretation which I mentioned already. Do you also believe that the Volstead Act didn't require a Constitutional Amendment, even though it was preceded by one anyways (presumably just for funzies)?

Isn't this an attempt to deny the idea of limited federal powers wholesale? Is there anything that couldn't be put into interstate commerce, and if so, what is it? Even deeds to fixed plots of land can be sold to out-of-state buyers; nearly anything else can even be physically transferred from one state to another if someone cared to. For that matter any action could affect interstate commerce indirectly; commerce refers to services as well as goods. I guess we've still got the Ninth Amendment, but when the Supreme Court mostly agrees that "this power isn't on a written list" isn't enough to preserve your favorite rights, then "this right is on an unwritten list" seems like slim protection.

Or in the contrary case: if anything could be put into interstate commerce, then what was the point to mentioning "interstate commerce" in the Constitution in the first place? Why not simply mention that Congress has the power to regulate commerce, or to regulate anything? Are quill pens just so fun and easy to use that writers using them added as many redundant words as they could?

And finally, what does the Tenth Amendment actually mean?

There were founding fathers who opposed the creation of a Bill of Rights, despite supporting all the rights therein, specifically on the grounds that it would dilute the understanding of the Constitution as a list of enumerated powers. Alexander Hamilton explained the trap:

For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretence for claiming that power.

Isn't that a funny example he picked? Hamilton must have never heard of the commerce clause! A press is designed to print paper; printed materials can be sold across state lines, so of course without a Bill of Rights the federal government should have been able to ban sales of unapproved printed material, just like it can still ban anything else which the Bill of Rights authors missed, right? Perhaps some contemporary explained this to Hamilton, and you can provide me with a reference?

One last question: suppose that some crazy people actually did want to institute a form of government in which local laws had a very wide latitude (subject to the greater ability for residents of local districts to vote with their ballots or their feet), but in which federal laws were restricted to a short enumerated list. Can you think of a way to phrase that, without leaving any loopholes which might be as exploitable via some over-broad interpretation? Or would any such attempt be doomed to fail as soon as "men disposed to usurp" found their desires thwarted by the restrictions?

I'm leaning toward the latter. The counter-argument to Hamilton's was that any list of enumerated powers would eventually be ignored, and that even an incomplete list of enumerated rights would then be better than having no further protection at all. There's no reason both sides couldn't have been correct...
posted by roystgnr at 12:42 PM on November 2, 2009


At the end of the day ask yourself how it feels to be pregnant your whole life and what sort of life the calf born is leading next time you sip your raw milk.

I rarely drink cow's milk, but I do consume goat milk. I have personally "met" the goats which give this milk. They are bred once a year, which is typical. They actually have a pretty good life and are happy. This is a family with three milking goats and no males. This isn't factory farming, and the goats aren't distressed or abused.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:58 PM on November 2, 2009


No, it's fair. More than fair, really, because typhoid is a disease where a carrier can appear healthy. If you get typhoid from raw milk and then get my kids sick, that's not good. This stuff needs to be pasteurized, which doesn't even affect the taste. If you don't like it, you and Jenny McCarthy can found your own anti-modern-medicine island or something.

You're conflating different things. This isn't anti-science at all. Raw milk is not that rare outside the US. They can handle it. So can we. Your hysteria doesn't match the threat, seriously, especially now that we can test for contamination.

Incidentally, people have been drinking raw milk legally in many states since pasteurization. Don't you think public health records would back your assertions? Maybe you should try to find some evidence for this impending outbreak, because we've been doing this all along.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


There were founding fathers who opposed the creation of a Bill of Rights

They didn't win that argument.

Look, I think if you want to argue that the basis for all federal and thus state law is invalid based on arguments from two centuries ago, there are appropriate places you can do that and no shortage of fellow-travelers who enjoy that sort of thing.

But the discussion about this particular issue here today is subject to existing law and abundant precedent and current procedural plans, which will not suddenly be rendered invalid by an anti-federalist overthrow of the government. So it's a bit of a red herring with regard to the raw-milk siezure and any legal proceedings that flow from it.
posted by Miko at 2:24 PM on November 2, 2009


The public health issue is that tuberculosis and typhoid will always be present in raw milk, even if in statistically small amounts.

No, it's fair. More than fair, really, because typhoid is a disease where a carrier can appear healthy. If you get typhoid from raw milk and then get my kids sick, that's not good.


That wikipedia quote has no citations, FYI. Nor will your kids get typhoid from casual contact with someone who has typhoid.Typhoid is only spread by contact with human feces or urine. I don't believe that its presence in raw milk is therefore inevitable, and I call BS on that quote.

TB is different. humans can get it from cows, and vice versa, to some degree. Humans that work closely with cattle carcasses can get it. It's hard to pass it on to other humans without prolonged contact. It also is not necessarily the case that all cattle have TB though- in fact it can be tested for, and dairies that provide raw milk in my state are routinely tested. So in spite of the link between cattle, humans, and tuberculosis, there's still no evidence that I can find anywhere for the claim that it is always present in raw milk.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:54 PM on November 2, 2009


Nobody is arguing that, even if this case didn't involve actual interstate commerce, a judge would suddenly see the light and ignore decades of precedent in favor of original intent, plain language, or more decades of older precedent. If people on a discussion board with no investment ignore my questions, imagine how much less likely it would be for a federal judge to actually overturn the status quo by taking their implications to a logical conclusion!

I also agree that predictions of judicial opinions might be the most immediately useful subtopic of discussion, but when did it become the only allowed subtopic? The post itself mentioned "rights" (not to mention naming one of the loudest proponents of another iconoclastic interpretation of "states' rights"), and your comment to which I replied also discussed "rights" rather than legal predictions. You also brought up the states and the federal government as distinct clauses, which led me to believe that it would not be going too much further afield to discuss them as distinct entities.

Finally, I replied specifically to the statement "people actually don't have a blanket right to drink what they want, at least not under the law of the land", because I found it ironic in light of the fact that the "supreme law of the land" is a phrase famous in part for its appearance in a document which less than a century ago had to be specifically amended, with great difficulty, in order to allow even a very limited restriction of peoples rights to drink whatever they want.

Were these aspects of your comment also "red herrings", mere distractions from the more immediate concern of "what will the judge hearing this case say?" Or did they only become red herrings once someone pointed out the irony?
posted by roystgnr at 5:45 PM on November 2, 2009


Yes, this was the "prohibition amendments were kabuki" interpretation which I mentioned already. Do you also believe that the Volstead Act didn't require a Constitutional Amendment, even though it was preceded by one anyways (presumably just for funzies)?

Your facts are incorrect. The Volstead Act was not based upon the interstate commerce power. It was based on the President's power as Commander-in-Chief.

Its text was as follows:

That after June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, until the conclusion of the present war and thereafter until the termination of demobilization, the date of which hall be determined and proclaimed by the President of the United States, for the purpose of conserving the manpower of the Nation, and to increase efficiency in the production of arms, munitions, ships, food, and clothing for the Army and Navy, it shall be unlawful to sell for beverage purposes any distilled spirits, and during said time no distilled spirits held in bond shall be removed therefrom for beverage purposes except for export."

This regulation is much different. It is simply designed to regulate interstate commerce and prevent persons from violating the laws of one state in regards to food safety by bringing into the state illegal materials from a state which legally allows such materials to be distributed. It does not even actually prohibit distribution or sale of raw milk within a state. It does not prohibit our MeFite friend from distributing raw milk in the state of Georgia. If the raw milk had been been produced in Georgia and distributed in Georgia, the federal regulation would not apply. It prohibits one from taking materials across a state line for the purposes of distribution in a state where those materials are illegal. There is nothing more essential to the regulation of interestate commerce than this sort of governmental activity.

In fact, there is only one major place remaning where interstate commerce could properly be said to be designed to operate in the way you describe. In the federal government's prohbition of discrimination on the basis of race. I'm talking about the near-aparthied that existed in large areas of the United States until the early 1970s. Congress was forced to rely on an expansive definition of interstate commerce to prohbit restaurants from forcing black people to eat in another room and to prevent cities and states from preventing black american citizens to the full use of public facilities that their tax dollars paid for, strictly because large numbers of white citizens had deep-seated irrational hatred for them.

In order to get the jurisdiction over states and private businesses that discriminated on the basis of race, the drafters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bills drafters referenced the insidous effects of racism on the commerce of the nation.

The legislation was the first functioning enforcement of the Civil War amendments. It was constitutional. But the use of the interstate commerce hook was to ensure that it had the basis to make it past judicial review.

I'm certain you'd agree that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an excellent way to ensure that American citizens had full rights in this country.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"people actually don't have a blanket right to drink what they want, at least not under the law of the land", because I found it ironic in light of the fact that the "supreme law of the land" is a phrase famous in part for its appearance in a document which less than a century ago had to be specifically amended, with great difficulty, in order to allow even a very limited restriction of peoples rights to drink whatever they want.

Let's be very clear, at least in what I am saying. I am saying you have your facts wrong. You must read the actual text of the regulation in question. It does not probhit the selling of raw milk anywhere. It only prohibits a person from taking raw milk across a state line for the purposes of distributing it in a state where it is illegal. The regulation is simply a completely logical way of making sure that persons do not use state lines as a shield to violate food safety regulations in another state. If you read the whole subsection, you will see similar things for shellfish, turtles and a large number of miscellanous items. Substitute the word "marijuana" for "milk" and you will get the picture.

Your beef is with Georgia. The proper way to deal with this problem is to work to raise awareness of the issue amongst Georgians and their elected representatives and governor. Once they agree with you, then they will pass a law allowing raw milk.

However, I fully see why they don't have such a law now. This isn't some giant conspiracy to keep three companies making pasturization machines in business, just as it isn't a conspiracy by the deadly "turtle lobby" trying to overturn the same regulations for turtles. The authorities are quite concerned that persons could get sick and make others ill. Ever since Leviticus the authorties have claimed the right to take measures to keep the the population protected from infectious disease. Some persons feel that these measures interefere with their right to drink a beverage associated with communicable diseases in humans. They produce a single document purporting to discredit dozens of studies in such journals as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet. The document is unsigned and purports to be the work of a foundation. No professional credentials for the author that could be reviewed are presented. If these pepole are trying to convince me that I should contact my legislator and allow them their pet drink, they are not doing so effectively.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am saying you have your facts wrong.

You are disagreeing with "facts" that I never stated. A couple examples:

I never claimed that the Volstead Act was based upon the interstate commerce power - merely that the modern broad interpretation of the interstate commerce power would, if correct, have been sufficient to enable a ban on liquors without passing the Eighteenth Amendment first.

I also never claimed "[this legislation prohibits] the selling of raw milk anywhere". I even specifically implied the opposite, in the phrase "even if this case didn't involve interstate commerce".

Although I'm hesitant to join a new expansion of the discussion in a hoary thread, especially while my previous points are ignored and misunderstood: I'm also aware that "the ends justify the means!" is a powerful argument, and that the world is a complex place full of fallible people in which a strict adherence to Constitutional restrictions, or to the rule of law in general, or to democracy (whether restricted or not), will never have perfect results. I know that the processes we've developed to try to avoid corrupt government occasionally entail bad outcomes, and I'm certainly aware that everybody can find their own very-good-sounding reasons for thinking that some of those bad outcomes are so important as to want to throw away the process altogether.

I've heard quite a few. What's amazing is how many (including from you) argue, not even that checks and balances will lead to a bad outcome, but that they might have made a good outcome less convenient!

What do "due process" or "cruel and unusual punishment" matter when we've got a prisoner who might know about a plot to blow up a city? Why is a "search warrant" more important than drugs that are killing our school children? Do we really have time to let 50 different states run 50 different experiments with their economies or their health care, when our whole country could get behind our leaders whose plan is sure to fix everything? For that matter, look how bad the other guys' leaders are - surely counting their followers' misinformed votes accurately is less important than making sure they don't get the chance to ruin the country! The more power we put in the hands of a few leaders, the more important it becomes to make sure they don't use it the wrong way, right? And we can't decentralize any of that power, much less take it away entirely.

If we even let people decide what they drink, some of them might get hurt.
posted by roystgnr at 9:08 PM on November 2, 2009


I live in an area with a lot of farms/co-ops and many people around me have their own chickens/goats, etc. Raw milk is sold at all the local farms, and I always buy it for my family. Most of my friends drink it.

I'd rather drink human breastmilk than cow's milk, though. That's another issue all on its own. Drinking milk meant for a calf kinda creeps me out (and no I'm not vegan).
posted by Lullen at 9:50 PM on November 2, 2009


Hmmm, I find a ban on raw milk quite reasonable: there is no obvious benefit of not pasteurising milk (there should not be any significant difference in taste between bacteriologically safe raw milk and pasteurised milk), and quite a high potential risk.

I find a ban on mountain climbing quite reasonable. There is no obvious benefit to humans climbing mountains (there should not be any significant difference between exercising on the flat and exercising on hills, and if you want to see views, buy a postcard), and quite a high potential risk.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:38 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've bought raw milk when I lived in North GA, and I've bought it here in SC. It makes kick ass buttermilk, but I wouldn't say there's a huge difference between pasteurized, non homogenized milk and raw milk.
posted by crataegus at 5:56 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find a ban on mountain climbing quite reasonable. There is no obvious benefit to humans climbing mountains (there should not be any significant difference between exercising on the flat and exercising on hills, and if you want to see views, buy a postcard), and quite a high potential risk.

The difference is that mountain climbers don't come back and spread typhus to the general population.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:29 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


In North Carolina its a serious blackmarket business. I mean, some real stealthy shit. One person I know has a hookup on raw milk. She drives to a farmhouse once a week and leaves cash in a secret box. Magically, a few days later, at a different farmhouse, the paid for bottles of raw milk appear on a stoop to be collected.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:31 AM on November 3, 2009


I used to get raw milk and pasteurised milk from the same local dairy. The raw milk tasted better than the pasteurised milk, but did not keep as well. This was fine, as we got our milk delivered by them in pint bottles three times a week.
Having said that, I think that commercial dairy farming is somewhere on the scale from weird to evil, which is one of the reasons I am glad I don't consume cows' milk any more.
posted by asok at 7:32 AM on November 3, 2009


The difference is that mountain climbers don't come back and spread typhus to the general population.

Is that what's happening? Again, I'd like to see some evidence, because people have been drinking raw milk since pasteurization became the standard. Surely, there should be some evidence of this happening, right?

Historically, typhoid fever typically accompanies poverty, famine and war, because it's spread primarily through feces. It can be passed through raw milk, but also raw vegetables and fruit.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:54 AM on November 3, 2009


Were these aspects of your comment also "red herrings", mere distractions from the more immediate concern of "what will the judge hearing this case say?" Or did they only become red herrings once someone pointed out the irony?

I see no irony. My point is simply that there does not exist any specific right for people to "drink whatever they want," in that the states and the federal government are involved in the regulation of many drinkable substances (and drinkables have been heavily and specifally regulated at local and colony/state levels since well before the American Revolution, continuing consistently afterward, as well).

Your particular point of view with regard to the validity of the last couple hundred years of American self-governance is perfectly fine for you to have; my concern for ewagoner, though, doesn't extend to that debate, and if I seemt o be 'ignoring your points' it's because I have no personal interest in continuing to debate them. They are stances, broad views which won't directly impact the specifics of the event described in this post or its outcomes, though you are of course more than welcome to if you find anyone else interested in taking those issues up.

Ewagoner's business is operating in a regulated environment, and my concern was that he has opened himself to legitimate charges of having violated the regulations, and been put at personal and financial risk, in part because of a misplaced understanding of what was legal, or what was a "right." There may indeed be problems with state and/or federal law here (I think so, and I think the state law in particular should change), but pragmatically, the state is fully within its legal area of operations in making such law, and the federal government is also within its area of operations.
posted by Miko at 8:20 AM on November 3, 2009


To remove the dangers of intestinal disorders and the sources of excessive mortality and invalidism, nothing has been more successful than the widespread practice of sterilization and pasteurization of cows' milk . There can hardly be a doubt that if raw milk could always be had unadulterated, fresh, and untainted, and as often as it was wanted, it would require no boiling, but such ideal milk cannot be had.
Jacobi (1889)


An article from the British Medical Journal in 1943 points out that cow's milk is very nutritious, but it is also an ideal growth medium for the growth of pathogenic bacteria:

Question 4: How much Disease is Raw Milk responsible for in the Human Population?
Answer - In England and Wales about 1,500 to 2,000 deaths a year from tuberculosis of bovine origin; 400 to 500 of undulant fever; occasional outbreaks of scarlet fever, septic sore throat, diphtheria, typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, dysentery, and acute gastro-enteritis. It is known that during the years 1912 to 1937 there were at least 113 outbreaks of epidemic disease in Great Britain, affecting about 14,000 persons. During the same time about 65,000 persons in England and Wales died of tuberculosis of bovine origin, and an unascertained number, probably several thousands, suffered from undulant fever contracted through milk. If epidemic summer diarrhoea in infants under 2 years of age is inlucded, some of the deaths during this period, which in England and Wales amounted to 190,000, must be added to this total.


From White, Raw milk and health in humans, the Canadian Medial Association Journal, 1982:

The very success of pasteurization in greatly reducing the incidence of milk-borne disease may have led people to forget the importance of this preventive measure...

Over the past 2 years. several outbreaks of illness due to the ingestion of raw cow's milk have been reported from elsewhere in North America, including a camp near Red Deer, Alta., where there were a number of cases of Campylobacter enteritis (described by McNaughton and associates in the Mar. 15 issue of the Journal). Outbreaks of infection with Campylobacter and Salmonella have also been reported from Montana, Kansas, Oregon and California; in California the milk had been supplied by a "certified dairy" that had also been implicated in similar outbreaks in 1958, 1964 and 1971-75, as well as in sporadic cases.The largest recent outbreak in Canada was at a sugar bush event in Quebec in 1975: infection with Yersinia, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, fever and headache lasting from 2 to 7 days, developed in 138 children. The organism would have been eradicated if the milk had been pasteurized.'" This apparently increasing problem is not restricted to our continent.

A similar resurgence was observed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from January to June 1981, when 11 outbreaks of illness due to the consumption of raw milk were reported, 5 in families and 6 in larger groups, including a school camp; in another outbreak 90 of 300 villagers became ill." From 1978 to 1980, 21 outbreaks, 1 of which affected 3500 children, most of whom were under 8 years of age, were reported in the United Kingdom."

Between 1970 and 1979 in Scotland there were 29 outbreaks of Salmonella food poisoning among 2428 persons who had consumed raw milk.'
...
The absence of recorded cases of milk-borne disease in some communities where raw milk is consumed does not mean that there have been no cases, only that they have not been reported. Sporadic cases of any disease are notoriously difficult to ascribe to a particular source, many people with infectious diseases are not seen by a physician, and many physicians do not notify public health departmens of such cases. In addition, a person who contracts a milk-borne disease may pass it to others, but the subsequent case will not be recognized as milk-borne.

posted by Comrade_robot at 9:00 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Health issues surrounding raw milk aside, you people do know what we got the last time Southerners decided to illegally transport a prohibited beverage, don't you?
posted by electroboy at 10:29 AM on November 3, 2009


Oh, God, yeah. The Dukes of Hazzard.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on November 3, 2009


The Dukes of Hazzard.

AND
posted by electroboy at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Raw milk tastes ten times better than pasteurized whole milk. I don't even consider 2% or skim to be milk. I grew up on a dairy farm drinking raw milk, my entire extended family on my dad's side drinks raw milk. I am amazed at the opposition to it.
posted by JasonM at 11:06 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I drink 2%. I can't drink whole milk at all, it's so nasty and viscous. I know people who drink skim milk now, and they can't drink 2% because they think that is too thick and fatty and gross. I suspect people drink what they are used to.
posted by chunking express at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2009


My local, pastuerized skim milk tastes richer and sweeter than the major brand milk from the grocery store. I really think you'd have to do a side-by-side tasting of milk from the same cow, the same day, one batch pasteurized and one not, before you can say definitively that pastuerization changes the flavor.

Heck, you can do this experiment yourself. Pasteurization is just heating. You can pasteurize milk in a saucepan on your stove. Try it out - compare the same batch of milk, one pasteurized and one not, both cooled in the fridge to the same temperature. Try a blind taste test.

For the most part, the flavor changes people are identifying are due to freshness and to the quality and richness of the milk itself. Of course the milk from your own dairy herd tastes amazing! You could pasteurize it and it would (will) still taste amazing, like the local milk I get.

I'm willing to believe that pasteurized fresh milk might taste a tiny bit different than nonpasteurized - subtly different - but when people begin talking about dramatic differences in flavor and richness, it's generally because they're comparing apples and oranges: local, very fresh, rich milk from healthy, well-fed cows and grocery-store, industrial milk that's older and from less well-fed cows, and might even contain additional additives.
posted by Miko at 12:18 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am amazed at the opposition to it.

I knew that salmonella was a risk but I didn't know much about the rest of the significant risk profile. Clearly these are very good reasons for pasteurization.

I have to admit that some of my skepticism about raw milk also comes from it being used -- to some degree -- as a marketing gimmick, targeted at a demographic that regularly shops at natural food co-ops, Whole Foods, etc.

Perhaps adding 'raw' to the name of a product provides associations with the mythological health benefits of a raw food diet, or otherwise implies health benefits or a higher quality product -- regardless of whether or not this benefit is real -- thus providing a highly profitable markup at the point of resale.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2009


I have to admit that some of my skepticism about raw milk also comes from it being used -- to some degree -- as a marketing gimmick

I actually don't think it's a gimmick. Everyone I know who produces raw milk sincerely believes that the array of bacteria present in the milk do something good for the body, boost the immune system, stuff like that. In addition, it's small-producer-friendly in that it requires less equipment and energy. Prices here for raw milk and raw milk products are comparable to prices from other local dairies. Most dairymen are barely making a living, anyway - there's not a lot of marking up going on at all, and the risks of selling raw milk would not be repaid by a few pennies' premium pricing anyway, if it were a purely economic decision. My observation is that it's generally a philosophical decision. Whether that philosophy is based in the cumulative results of widespread scientific inquiry is another question.

But as far as cheese goes, it's absolutely true that raw milk is a requirement to produce many of the world's traditional cheeses. You just can't make a lot of kinds of cheese at all without raw milk, because there's no way to capture and impregnate pasteurized milk with the vast numbers and unpredictable proportions of bacteria that produce flavorful effects as the cheeses cure. This has actually severely hampered American cheesemakers in producing commercial cheeses that can compete for awards, or just for acclaim, against other cheeses worldwide.
posted by Miko at 12:53 PM on November 3, 2009


(In other words, paying a premium for raw-milk cheese is justified; the raw milk isn't a gimmick, it's a guarantee of traditional production and complex flavor).
posted by Miko at 12:55 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The difference is that mountain climbers don't come back and spread typhus to the general population.

Is that what's happening? Again, I'd like to see some evidence, because people have been drinking raw milk since pasteurization became the standard. Surely, there should be some evidence of this happening, right?

Historically, typhoid fever typically accompanies poverty, famine and war, because it's spread primarily through feces. It can be passed through raw milk, but also raw vegetables and fruit.


I refer you to the following article, which describes the effects of drinking raw milk and an outbreak of E. Coli which occured:

Of 140 persons who reported consuming raw milk from the farm, 18 (13%) became ill; among the 157 persons for whom information was obtained, no illness was reported among those who did not consume raw milk. Among 102 of 140 exposed persons who provided information about their raw milk consumption during November 20--December 13, the relative risk for illness increased with the average number of cups of milk consumed daily. The dose-response trend for average daily consumption was statistically significant (p=0.008 by expanded Mantel-Haenszel chi-square test), with attack rates of 3.6% for 0--0.9 cups of milk, 6.7% for 1--1.9 cups, 14.3% for 2--2.9 cups, and 37.5% for >3 cups. Visiting the farm and consumption of raw milk products from other sources were not associated with illness.

More examples from the Centers for Disease Control, who work very hard to protect the general populace from disease:

When raw milk or raw milk products become contaminated, people who eat the contaminated foods can get sick. Here are a few examples of outbreaks that have been reported since 2000:

2001: Outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni infections from drinking “raw” or unpasteurized milk.

2003: Outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections from eating unpasteurized queso fresco (a Mexican-style soft cheese)

2003: Outbreak of Salmonella infections from eating unpasteurized queso fresco.

2004: Outbreak of E. coli.O157 infections from eating unpasteurized queso fresco


These are real.

May, 1983:

During May 1983, two outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness following consumption of raw milk occurred in Pennsylvania. A total of 57 people became ill.

The first outbreak occurred following a visit by 60 first-grade students and three teachers to a dairy farm in south-central Pennsylvania. Thirty-one (49%) of the 63 visitors became ill, but no acute gastrointestinal illnesses were reported by members of the farm family. Symptoms included fever greater than 39 C (102 F) (84%), of 57 people became ill.

The first outbreak occurred following a visit by 60 first-grade students and three teachers to a dairy farm in south-central Pennsylvania. Thirty-one (49%) of the 63 visitors became ill, but no acute gastrointestinal illnesses were reported by members of the farm family. Symptoms included fever greater than 39 C (102 F) (84%), abdominal pain (81%), vomiting (55%), diarrhea (52%), headache (13%), bloody stool (10%), and myalgia (7%). Onsets of disease ranged from 1 to 8 days (mean 3 days). Illness lasted from 5 hours to 12 days (mean 3.4 days). Sixteen persons saw a physician; none were hospitalized. Campylobacter jejuni was found in the stool of the only child who was cultured. Secondary illnesses compatible with Campylobacter infection abdominal pain (81%), vomiting (55%), diarrhea (52%), headache (13%), bloody stool (10%), and myalgia (7%). Onsets of disease ranged from 1 to 8 days (mean 3 days). Illness lasted from 5 hours to 12 days (mean 3.4 days). Sixteen persons saw a physician; none were hospitalized. Campylobacter jejuni was found in the stool of the only child who was cultured. Secondary illnesses compatible with Campylobacter infection occurred in two households.

Cookies and small cups of raw milk were served at the farm. Each of the 63 visitors drank one cup of raw milk and ate one cookie. Cultures of the raw milk from the farm did not yield Campylobacter. No dairy cattle were reported to have been ill, and none were cultured.


The second outbreak occurred on May 20, when 45 persons (43 kindergarten children and two teachers) visited a dairy farm in central Pennsylvania. Subsequently, 26 persons (58%) developed gastrointestinal illness characterized by abdominal pain (73%), diarrhea (69%), fever (58%), nausea (54%), headache (50%), fatigue (38%), vomiting (19%), bloody stools (12%), and myalgia (8%). The incubation period ranged from 2 to 10 days (mean 3.6 days). Duration of illness was 1-14 days (mean 3.5 days). Four children saw a physician, and one was hospitalized. C. jejuni was found in two of two stool specimens cultured.

Raw milk and cookies were also served at the second farm. Illness was associated with quantity of milk consumed. Twenty-five of the 26 ill persons each consumed H cup or more of raw milk, and 10 of 15 well persons each consumed the same amount of raw milk (p = 0.03). Illness was not associated with eating cookies, touching farm animals, or consuming raw milk from other sources or with the presence of animals in the home. Members of the farm family routinely drank raw milk, and none reported illness. There were no illnesses among the herd, and no cows were cultured. Gastrointestinal illnesses, probably representing secondary transmission, occurred in households of six patients. Reported by Microbiology Laboratory, JC Blair Hospital; DJ Blessing, M Thompson, B Fisher, D Schooley, MD, MJ Kramer, South Central District; TM DeMelfi, MA McCarthy, EJ Witte, MD, Div of Epidemiology; CW Hays, MD, State Epidemiologist; Bureau of Laboratories, Pennsylvania Dept of Health; J Smucker, Milk Safety Br, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC; Enteric Diseases Br, Zoonoses Activity, Div of Bacterial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.


California:

In 1981, 46 cases of human Salmonella dublin infection were reported in California, and in 1982, 70 cases were reported. In both years, 24% of patients reported using certified raw milk (CRM). In 1983, 123 S. dublin cases were identified--the most ever reported in a single year--and of the 99 persons providing information on raw milk use, 44% reported using CRM.

On October 3, 1985, students and teachers from northern California, and some of their family members, made a field trip to a San Joaquin County dairy. Of the 50 attendees from whom information was available, 23 (46%) became ill with Campylobacter jejuni infection.

These reports come from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is the most trusted source of information on disease outbreaks in the United States. They are most famous for the first reports of AIDS. They are the gold standard for this type of information.

But the CDC is not the only party concerned with issues surrounding Raw Milk:

According to this report, in 2006, Raw Milk was responsible for 71% of all dairy foodborne illnesses in the United States:

Dairy commodities, which we assume are milk, cheese and butter, accounted for only three percent of the single source outbreaks in 2006. That translates into 16 outbreaks responsible for 193 food-borne illness cases.

Of those dairy outbreak cases, 71 percent were attributed to unpasteurized raw milk. Raw milk was responsible for ten outbreaks that made 137 sick. “A wide range of bacterial pathogens was associated with the raw milk outbreaks, including Campylobacter (six outbreaks), STEC (E. coli) 0157:H7 (two outbreaks), Salmonella (one outbreak), and Listeria (one outbreak), resulting in 11 hospitalizations and one death," CDC reports.


That's right. Death.

A search of PubMed shows 18 articles about raw milk hazards and outbreaks from MMWR alone. Click on the articles, read them.

There is solid, unassailable medical research on the hazards of raw milk. I see no papers by epidemiologists or disease biologists arguing that it is not a health hazard.

I urge people to follow government warnings and not drink raw milk.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:12 PM on November 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


Historically, typhoid fever typically accompanies poverty, famine and war, because it's spread primarily through feces. It can be passed through raw milk, but also raw vegetables and fruit.

Milk isn't typhoid's best vector -- water is, which is why raw produce is often a carrier (and why they advise people to buy fruits with rinds in Third World countries). Water treatment with chlorine ended typhoid outbreaks in the US.

But given the list of things that raw milk can carry (including one that hasn't been mentioned, brucellosis), it just doesn't seem like something that people should be running around promoting as healthy. At least it's just local dairies selling it -- imagine the trail of sickness if a major milk producer started pumping this stuff out of their factories.

Remember the Odwalla scare? The e.coli laced apple juice came from an apple orchard which cows grazed in, and the FDA's investigation found that some of the pickers were harvesting apples off the ground. So an apple tainted with cow dung got into the apple juice supply, and being that apple juice is mostly sugar, the E.coli multipled and eventually reached a dangerous level. All this could have been prevented by pastuerizing the juice. Since then, Odwalla has pasteurized. The problem, ultimately, is you have to guarantee that your entire supply line is safe if you're not going to pasteurize.

One thing I would love to have, though, is old-fashioned buttermilk, and that would require a significant amount of raw milk to produce.
posted by dw at 2:27 PM on November 3, 2009


CheeseDigestsAll: Of course not, and that wasn't my point. Also, I don't think that sanitation practices in 1935 are exactly relevant today, either. In France, where raw milk cheeses are common, the incidence of listeria is on the order of 3 cases per million people, only marginally higher (0.5 cases/million) than the US.

I would say a rate six times as high is more than "marginal," personally.

Also, just for the information of those curious, the FDA allows raw-milk to be used in cheese, for sale, as long as that cheese is aged for 60 days prior to sale, as after that time any bacteria present in the milk will be dead. Canada has the same rule, only 61 days instead of 60. The only raw cheeses that USian dairies cannot sell are the fresh, soft cheeses.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:47 PM on November 3, 2009


There is solid, unassailable medical research on the hazards of raw milk.

Ironmouth, you left out an adjective: There is solid, unassailable medical research on the hazards of contaminated raw milk. You can test for the pathogens that cause all of those illnesses, and as I mentioned before, raw milk in South Carolina is strictly and stringently tested. The outbreaks you cited were caused by drinking milk that was either meant to be pasteurized or was from the black/grey market. It is possible to have safe raw milk, so why not allow it under those conditions?

It's also possible to have safe ground beef, but just today I see news of another massive recall from contaminated beef produced two months ago that has killed at least two people. (That's right. Death.) If only that beef had been processed under the same strict standards that South Carolina raw milk was processed.
posted by ewagoner at 5:27 PM on November 3, 2009


It is possible to have safe raw milk, so why not allow it under those conditions?

I'm not sure that's been established to the satisfaction of many. I don't particularly care what people do with their bodies, but I think it's important that they be properly informed of the risks.

If only that beef had been processed under the same strict standards that South Carolina raw milk was processed.

Presumably there's government regulation of ground beef processing plants. Why should we expect government regulation of raw milk to be successful if government regulation of ground beef is not?

Here are South Carolina's regulations concerning milk processing. How do the regulations for raw milk differ from the ones for pasteurized milk?
posted by electroboy at 7:12 PM on November 3, 2009


Ironmouth, you left out an adjective: There is solid, unassailable medical research on the hazards of contaminated raw milk.

You see, that's exactly why the pasteurize milk. To make sure the milk is not contaminated. Its not rocket science.

I'm sticking with the doctors and the Centers for Disease Control, who I believe to have more information on the subject.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:33 PM on November 3, 2009


Here's the SC law for pasteurized milk

Section VII has the testing limits, at the top of page 22:

Bacterial Limits**…... 20,000 per mL, or gm.***
Coliform****.............. Not to exceed 10 per mL. Provided, that in the case of bulk milk transport tank shipments, shall not exceed 100 per mL.

Here's the law for retailed raw milk

Again, Section VII has the testing requirements:

Bacterial Limits: Individual producer milk not to exceed 10,000 per mL
Coliform: Not to exceed 10 per gram.
Pathogenic Organisms (**Escherichia Coli 0157:H7, **Salmonella, **Listeria Monocytogenes, **Campylobacter): Individual producer milk not to exceed zero (0) organisms

So, coliform is the same, but the total bacterial limits is twice that for pasteurized than for raw. Also, specific counts for certain pathogens must be zero for raw but there is no set limit at all for
pasteurized.

Dig into the bacterial limits for pre-pasteurized milk if you want to be startled. Since it's going to be sterilized, it's practically ok to send pus through the pipes.
posted by ewagoner at 7:43 PM on November 3, 2009


Presumably there's government regulation of ground beef processing plants

That's where you'd be wrong. Well, to be fair, there is *some* regulation, but it's lax, and not even close to the standards SC has set for milk. This latest outbreak is typical: the testing was done only after people got sick and died, and even after being proven to be tainted, the recall is still only voluntary.
posted by ewagoner at 7:46 PM on November 3, 2009


How hard would it be to come up with simple home bacteria testing for fresh milk? I'm thinking of something as easy as a litmus paper-like strip that buyers could check. Maybe the technology for that is a few years off.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 PM on November 3, 2009


Here's the thing: both beef and milk can harbor deadly bacteria. Both need to be regulated by the government in order to ensure a safe food supply.

Regulations on the books for beef production are all right as written, but inspection programs are underfunded and therefore pathetically inadequate, and the powerful meatpacking lobby constantly seeks protection from harsher legislation or greater budget appropriation.

The fact that regulations are inadequately enforced doesn't mean the regulations are stupid. It means they need to be more stringent. And I'd be in favor of maximum stringency for milk regulation, too.

Most of our food production system is currently inadequate to ensure a reasonable degree of food safety.

But the solution to that is not black-market trade in food goods. Instead, it's good-faith work to change the law to a degree that allows alternative supply chains to develop.

This particular milk may have a wonderfully clean bill of health, but that's not Georgia's place to determine, since they don't monitor or control the inspection program - South Carolina does. To Georgia, it makes complete sense to treat all milk riding around in trucks as potentially threatening to health. How is Georgia to know whether a company in another state is meeting another state's regulations? What avenue exists? South Carolina's regulations don't mean anything in Georgia -- just as China's regulations on what sort of ceramic glazes are safe for dinnerware don't mean anything to me. I'm not privy to the workings of that system; we have no good faith agreement; I have no representative voice in how those are determined; and I have no authority to inspect.

The quality of the food safety program nationwide is one issue, and an important one. It could very well be that programs could be put in place to inspect and regulate every small dairy selling raw milk in the country. The question: who would fund it? IF neither the federal government or the state is willing or able to fund an inspection program, then I can understand why states create a simple blanket ban on the importation of products for which they have no bona fide as to safety.

I wish they'd do it for beef, too, but I think there's a historical issue here. Bacterial risks from milk have been well known for centuries, so milk production and distribution have been attentively regulated for quite a long time. But the bacterial issues surrounding beef production are relatively recent, arising from rapidly changing husbandry and slaughtering-facility practices that really took hold only over the last 20-30 years. Prior to that time, beef was rarely a significant public health risk, so state-level legislation to ensure its safety was really not a necessity, whereas it was for milk. But there just hasn't been time yet for state governments to catch up to the drastic and dangerous changes in beef processing and respond to them in the same way they responded to milk threats in, say, the 1930s.

It would be really interesting to see some bold state take that step: we won't allow any beef to cross state lines and be sold here without a certification process to which we are party, at the seller's expense.That's the kind of move that will change the game.

But I think that justifying an inadequate protection system for milk by pointing to a murderously inadequate protection system for beef is a pretty dangerous way to think - another race to the bottom. The milk protection system was put in place as a response to real historical dangers. It's time we had a similar system in place for beef, and perhaps we will soon, after a few hundred more people die or end up living in hospital beds as vegetables.
posted by Miko at 9:24 PM on November 3, 2009


It's time we had a similar system in place for beef, and perhaps we will soon, after a few hundred more people die or end up living in hospital beds as vegetables.

There was a big article in NY Times about that recently. Can't find it now, but a young woman was paralyzed.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on November 4, 2009


I believe that this is it. As usual, NYT, will possibly require sign-in.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:02 AM on November 4, 2009


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