A Mom and a Dairyman Plead: Don’t Feed Children Raw Milk
February 2, 2016 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Two years ago, when Oregon parents Jill Brown and Jason Young met Brad and Tricia Salyers, the families had no idea that they would eventually be sharing in a tragedy that sickened four of the Salyers’ children and left Brown and Young’s youngest child, Kylee – 23 months old at the time – with such severe medical complications that she would need a kidney transplant from her mother. All of that and more happened beginning in April 2012 when the children were among 19 people – 15 of them under the age of 19 — who fell ill with E. coli O157:H7, a potentially fatal foodborne pathogen. Soon after, Oregon health officials determined that the outbreak was caused by raw milk from Foundation Farm near Wilsonville in Western Oregon — the Salyers’ family farm. Four of the sickened children were hospitalized with kidney failure. Foundation Farm had been providing 48 families with raw milk. Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful and sometimes deadly foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
posted by Blasdelb (77 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would like to know more about this bit:

This chronology can confuse people. They don’t understand how their grandparents who drank raw milk all of their lives never got sick from E. coli. But scientists believe E. coli didn’t pick up the genes that cause human illness until late last century. Now that this disease-causing strain of the bacterium is commonly found in most cowherds, people can, and do, become ill from drinking contaminated milk.

Even more confusing for some is that cows that have this strain of E. coli in their systems generally don’t show any signs of being infected with it. Then, too, it can come and go on a farm. It can be present in some of the cows or in water tanks or the soil for awhile and then disappear from one or all of these possible “harboring” places, only to return again.


Did the new strain appear due to antibiotic overuse, or some other factor?
posted by emjaybee at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


There is as much anti-science on the left as on the right.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


Human intuition is often wrong, which is why we need the scientific method. Well, the heartening thing is that the families actually learned from this. I could easily see something like this ending with some kind of "well, you can't prove it was the milk" statement.
posted by ignignokt at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


emjaybee, this type of article suggests you are correct.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's really strange to me that they'd turn away from industrial farming because of the notion that big dairy is lying to them about how healthy pasteurized milk is, but continue believing the lie that milk is healthy.

Isn't it pretty well-established that while calcium is good for you, it's not readily bio-available in milk? Don't get me wrong, I think dairy goods are delicious, but "a big glass of milk" isn't a health food.
posted by explosion at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Did the new strain appear due to antibiotic overuse, or some other factor?

One major factor was the increased use of grain feeding (typically with corn) and CAFOs. Cows' digestive tracts developed to primarily eat grass, not grain, and certainly not corn. "[G]rain-based cattle diets promote the growth of E. coli that can survive the acidity of the human stomach and cause intestinal illness" (source).

Antibiotic resistance made the problem worse, but it's the acid-resistance that allows the bacteria to get a foothold.
posted by jedicus at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2016 [41 favorites]


I won't drink raw milk in the US. But in France? Sure. A big part of it is that raw milk cheese is more delicious. Also French production methods are probably safer.
posted by Nelson at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


For some context and background on the raw milk movement, I highly recommend The Raw Deal, from 2006 (WaPo article). It is especially interesting when it comes to discussing the rhetorical styles of both sides, and how that adds to the partisan nature of the disagreements between them:
The issue of selling raw milk is, legally speaking, dicey. To determine exactly how dicey, I call Ted Elkin, deputy director of the Office of Food Protection and Consumer Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Elkin is in charge of making sure the state's dairy laws are enforced.

"So," I begin carefully, "Maryland's position on raw milk is . . .?"

"Raw milk is illegal for sale," Elkin says. "Period."

"Huh," I reply.

To help drive this point home, he compares selling raw milk to selling pot.

"Interesting," I say. At that moment, I am standing in my kitchen with the fridge door open, staring at my gallon of possible contraband.

"Our position is that it's bad," Elkin says. "But we're not trying to be the Gestapo about this. I don't have the resources to go after individuals." This all made me a little nervous.

Using an analogy, Elkin explains that a small-time heroin dealer in Baltimore might be able to elude the authorities for quite a while. So, during our conversation, raw milk was compared to marijuana and heroin. What's more, Hitler's secret police were mentioned -- in passing, sure, but still.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not convinced that is well-established outside of vegan circles, explosion. I also think that information about nutrition is so confusing and hard-to-sort-through that it's difficult to accept that any nutritional claim is well-established.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:04 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Did the new strain appear due to antibiotic overuse, or some other factor?"
Looking into the ecological origin of the O157:H7 serotype of E. coli is actually something I worked on a long time ago.

What is deadly about the new strain really isn't so much a new bacteria as it is a new temperate bacteriophage that infects E. coli and buries its DNA into the genome of its host, giving it the powerful Shiga toxin. It can be found in the guts of cattle, sheep, and goats but is at least for the most part relatively uncommon in each environment. The evolutionary benefit that phage provides is unclear, but we were able to demonstrate that at least one of the reasons why O157:H7 serotype is rare is because it makes the hosts vulnerable to lytic phage that specifically infect infected cells and spread through herds just like the strain does. Importantly, ruminants don't have the Shiga toxin receptor, Globotriaosylceramide, and so aren't generally affected by the strain at all.

The emergence of the strain likely has nothing to do with antibiotic use, and for the most part antibiotics are not useful in treating it because they can precipitate the hemolytic uremic syndrome that is the real killer.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2016 [112 favorites]


They don’t understand how their grandparents who drank raw milk all of their lives never got sick from E. coli.

Ever walk through an old cemetery and see how many kids are listed on the stones? Those are people that didn't become grandparents.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2016 [131 favorites]


I think it is troubling to think about this in terms of "anti-science" parents putting their children at risk. Certainly this is sad--and the fact it was preventable makes it more sad--but the numbers are tiny, compared to the huge numbers of people sickened by outbreaks of salmonella in chicken, say. One's position on the health benefits of a food are of limited utility in predicting whether that food will sicken them.
posted by mittens at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


One last piece from "The Raw Deal", that frames why raw milk advocates don't trust claims that it isn't safe to drink:
The disconnect between raw milk advocates and health authorities runs deep. To understand how deep, it's good to know a little about the history of pasteurization.

In the late 19th century, bad milk was killing babies by the thousands in American cities. In New York City, nearly a quarter of babies died before their first birthday, and tainted cow's milk was largely to blame.

Louis Pasteur invented his process in the 1860s, but decades later it was still not widely used for milk. Enter Nathan Straus, an owner of Macy's department store and a crusading philanthropist. Straus, perhaps more than any other person, is responsible for the near-universal pasteurization practiced today. Disturbed by the infant mortality rate and understanding that bad milk was the culprit, Straus wrote pamphlets arguing for pasteurization and, more important, set up milk stations around the country to distribute pasteurized milk. Mortality rates plummeted. Straus almost single-handedly saved thousands of lives.

. . . The triumph of pasteurization seems like a victory for human progress. Raw milk advocates see it differently. They believe the health problem was caused by lack of regulation and refrigeration, not raw milk. On farms, people drank fresh raw milk. In cities, where the majority of deaths occurred, the dairies were filthy, and there were lax standards for transportation and storage. In addition, suppliers were often unscrupulous, as Cattle, a history of the cow by Laurie Winn Carlson, attests: "Milk was commonly mixed with additives to gain profit. Then, to make it look whole, additives were mixed in, such as carbonized carrots, grilled onions, caramel, marigold petals, chalk, plaster, white clay and starch. To replace the cream that had been removed, emulsions of almonds and animal brains were dissolved in the liquid to thicken it."

It's undeniable that some of the milk supply was dirty and deadly at the turn of the 20th century. But modern dairy equipment, routine testing of cows and refrigeration have changed all that, raw milk advocates argue. (The FDA and other health authorities contend that those advances, while important, still don't make unpasteurized milk completely safe.) Tom Cowan, a family practice doctor in San Francisco and a founding member of the Price Foundation, has been recommending raw milk to his patients for 20 years. None of them, he says, has ever gotten sick from drinking it. Organic Pastures Dairy Company, based in California, one of the handful of states where raw milk sales are legal, claims to have sold more than 40 million servings of raw milk without a single complaint. The dairy's slogan is "Join the raw revolution."
Oh, and thanks for posting this, Blasdelb. I am, obviously, very interested in this subject.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


Isn't it pretty well-established that while calcium is good for you, it's not readily bio-available in milk?

No, calcium in milk is absorbed just as well as from a variety of pure calcium salts (i.e. the kind you'd find in a calcium supplement). You may be confused by phosphorus (e.g. in soft drinks) lowering bone density or oxalic acid (e.g. in some dark leafy greens) inhibiting calcium absorption.

That said, excessive calcium consumption probably isn't helpful (and may be harmful), and milk isn't a fantastic source of it anyway.
posted by jedicus at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Another disease that can be transmitted through milk is tuberculosis. According to Eyebrows McGee in a past thread:
Like half the modern veterinary profession developed around nothing but preventing milk-borne illnesses, particularly TB, from passing to humans. It's seriously the major preoccupation of the profession until after WWII.

...

In most urban areas in the 1880s or so, after industrialization but before pasteurization, unsafe milk was the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5. The whole pasteurization-of-milk scheme didn't just come up because the government had nothing better to do; milk was significantly unsafe and responsible for many childhood deaths and many public health problems that affected even those who didn't drink milk (contagious disease outbreaks).
And she's a mod now so what she says is, like, double true.

But seriously: Milk pasteurisation and safety: a brief history and update (PDF, 1997)
posted by XMLicious at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


The idea that cow's milk is essential for the growth and health of human children itself isn't really established outside of its status as a cultural practice, as far as I know, though.
posted by thelonius at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty much of the opinion that raw milk used to be this awesome super-food, but like so many things that factory farming got its mitts on, we ruined it. And because of those ultra-modern farming practices (like overuse of antibiotics or feeding cows corn, not pasteurization!), we will probably never be able to go back.

But I'm also about as wary of lettuce, spinach, and other "washed" greens....how many people have those killed because of those same farming practices...but I'm still totally having a salad for lunch.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Isn't it pretty well-established that while calcium is good for you, it's not readily bio-available in milk? Don't get me wrong, I think dairy goods are delicious, but "a big glass of milk" isn't a health food.

Milk isn't suggested for calcium, at least these days. Milk has a lot of protein (and just plain calories), and it's a way to get infants and toddlers enough food when they are being picky about solids, especially if they are just transitioning off of breast milk.

No food is actually a "health food."
posted by ignignokt at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


Ever walk through an old cemetery and see how many kids are listed on the stones? Those are people that didn't become grandparents.

YES! Whenever people try to talk to me about stuff that's "natural" or how "I did such and such and I turned out I fine" I want to be like 1) Okay well like smallpox is pretty natural too, as is dying and 2) Yeah but a lot of people didn't turn out okay! They got sick, or lost limbs, or even died! Lots of people, including lots of children, died! They did not turn out okay and they're not here to argue with you because they're DEAD!

I feel like so many people completely fail to consider any issues with the status quo when they're contemplating change of any sort so they argue against against all these perceived future problems while ignoring that, as things stand currently (or did when they were kids), a lot of really bad stuff happened! You can't just assume, because you personally aren't dead, that the way you've always done things is okay.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2016 [80 favorites]


You can't just assume, because you personally aren't dead, that the way you've always done things is okay.

Survival bias is a hell of a drug.
posted by jedicus at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2016 [35 favorites]


for the most part antibiotics are not useful in treating it because they can precipitate the hemolytic uremic syndrome that is the real killer.

so, uh, the kidney failure came from the treatment for e.coli given these kids? I'm not either anti-antibiotics nor pro-raw milk but this seems like an important point.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thank you for such an awesome response, blasdelb!
posted by emjaybee at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2016


"One major factor was the increased use of grain feeding (typically with corn) and CAFOs. Cows' digestive tracts developed to primarily eat grass, not grain, and certainly not corn. "[G]rain-based cattle diets promote the growth of E. coli that can survive the acidity of the human stomach and cause intestinal illness" (source).

Antibiotic resistance made the problem worse, but it's the acid-resistance that allows the bacteria to get a foothold."
It was now three positions ago, but the project I referenced upthread involved using phages against E. coli O157:H7 where the general idea was to treat the bacteria in the cattle that act as a reservoir, rather than trying to use the phage in patients who are already fucked. It turns out that E. coli O157:H7 exists quite happily in cattle and sheep, doing nothing to hurt them, and its presence is phage mediated in nature. When there are phage against it you don't find the bug, and can't succeed at experimentally giving the bug to ruminants, but when phage are absent its spreads quickly. Thus by using phage against E. coli O157:H7 in cattle feed in CAFOs we could ensure that in this nasty, awful, omnipresently shit filled environment, the bugs that were being passed around as cattle desperately try to clean each other with their tongues weren't like the strain we're talking about here.

But the problem with E. coli O157:H7, in a fundamental way, isn't really a scientific one; we already have all the scientific knowledge necessary to address it far better than we currently are. as you mentioned, when either meat or dairy cattle are fed corn or other grains it causes the otherwise neural pH of the normally grass eating ruminant's stomachs to drop like a rock and digest the corn without the aid of its natural gut flora, just like our stomachs do. Normally, however, a cow eats the bacteria that eat grass in the roughly pH neutral environment of a healthy grass eating cow and normally that bacteria would be much more harmless to us as it would have a harder time surviving our low stomach pH. E. coli O157:H7 becomes a much bigger problem as the gut flora present in the cow come pre-selected to survive in a low pH environment this otherwise useful defense is circumvented, causing disease. Additionally, cattle are raised in situations that are just obscene in their completely unnecessary cruelty and potential for breading bugs like E. coli O157:H7, ensuring that it is in their guts and on their hides to begin with. Even then, it wouldn't be so much of a problem for us if the speeds at with the cattle are disassembled were not so high, or the labor force that does it were not so profoundly mistreated and transient, causing shit to end up mixed in with the meat. While Americans no longer really have a taste for grass fed meat and the costs associated with it are actually non-trivial, the costs associated with fixing the worst aspects of CAFOs, slowing down line speeds, and not treating the largely immigrant work force that packages meat like they were chattel are fractions of a penny on the pound - beyond trivial. The only reason this happens in meat is that it is allowed to.

While I was characterizing phages that would be useful towards these efforts, developing models that would be needed for them, and doing unrelated but very productive basic science with the phages involved, this was a fact of the nature of what my work was that was constantly on my mind, and still is. The science I was doing was being funded to solve a problem that was fundamentally not scientific in nature and, even if it succeeded in its stated goals, could only hope to hide larger problems that are fundamentally moral and social in nature. To this day I still don't regret my work then; it did a lot of good training me as a scientist, providing a backdrop for useful basic research, and I still maintain that it's bandaid for the fundamentally internal problem it addresses is still a good thing - if nothing else our moral failings in agriculture shouldn't be taken out on the kidneys of children.

In this context though, while drinking raw milk from grass fed cows would likely be at least somewhat safer, it would not at all be safe, especially for children, the elderly, people with serious illnesses, and women of childbearing age. The acid barrier of our stomachs is useful and meaningful, but it is not at all a shield worth hiding behind. E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter will not always give a shit - particularly if there is enough poop in your milk.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2016 [93 favorites]


Oh yes, the walk through an old cemetery is something I always recommend to anti-vaxers and any proponents of the "natural" lifestyle of the good old days. I saw the gravestones of 5 children from one family who all died within weeks of each other in an old MA graveyard, and as recently as my parents' generation, just about every family had one or more child who died before age 5. My grandparents buried two each. I was in the first class to get the Polio vaccine, and remember the fear of the disease and one of my uncles crippled for life by it.

As to raw milk, my mother always tested positive on the TB tine test she had to take as a teacher, because she was exposed to bad milk as a child, but luckily did not get the disease. My grandfather had two cows and we drank the raw milk, but they were constantly being tested by the veterinarian, and this was 60 years ago and they were grass-fed in our field. I would not recommend it today for any reason, especially not for children.
posted by mermayd at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


a fiendish thingy: " In addition, suppliers were often unscrupulous, as Cattle, a history of the cow by Laurie Winn Carlson, attests: "Milk was commonly mixed with additives to gain profit. Then, to make it look whole, additives were mixed in, such as carbonized carrots, grilled onions, caramel, marigold petals, chalk, plaster, white clay and starch. To replace the cream that had been removed, emulsions of almonds and animal brains were dissolved in the liquid to thicken it.""

always know your dealer...
posted by symbioid at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


"so, uh, the kidney failure came from the treatment for e.coli given these kids? I'm not either anti-antibiotics nor pro-raw milk but this seems like an important point."
As I think the article mentions, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is caused by the Shiga toxins produced by the bug destroying red blood cells, which then clog the kidneys causing them to fail. Attempting to treat E. coli O157:H7 with at least standard antibiotics has been shown to stimulate the production of the toxin by the bacteria, such that even though you might be curing the infection the damage you cause in doing so might be worse than the benefits you make to the patient. Advanced infections will cause HUS with or without antibiotics if they get bad enough, and I don't think we have any reason to suspect that the treatment this girl got was substandard in any way. It is though important to note that whether you should treat O157:H7 with antibiotics is controversial, with different physicians coming down on either side of what ends up doing less harm, particularly now with the finding that some antibiotics like quinolones may actually help in the end.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


thelonius: The idea that cow's milk is essential for the growth and health of human children itself isn't really established outside of its status as a cultural practice, as far as I know, though.

It's not that it's essential, it's that young kids go through a lot of picky food phases, and if they get a glass of milk with a meal you can be sure they get a decent shot of protein and fat and the most important nutrients, even if all the want eat otherwise is half a carrot. So it's a good option for most kids, and definitely better than most commercial juices.
posted by tavella at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


The idea that cow's milk is essential for the growth and health of human children itself isn't really established outside of its status as a cultural practice, as far as I know, though.

Oh man, wait till the milk marketing people hear about this!
posted by sneebler at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems like every day I get closer and closer to wanting to go vegan. If it weren't for cheese and its damned deliciousness!
posted by slogger at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


tavella, that makes sense. But I have noticed that some people almost panic if their kid misses drinking a glass of milk.
posted by thelonius at 10:59 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


"There is as much anti-science on the left as on the right."

That may or may not be true, but back when I was a regular reader of web sites where this flavour of diet crankery was popular, my sense was the discourse skewed libertarian/paleo-conservative. Not left.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


...but the numbers are tiny, compared to the huge numbers of people sickened by outbreaks of salmonella in chicken, say.

The number of people consuming raw milk is also tiny in comparison to those who eat chicken.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't think we have any reason to suspect that the treatment this girl got was substandard in any way.

I wasn't suggesting that. But it does seem likely she was given a course of antibiotics as part of standard treatment, I mean, doctors (still!) often prescribe antibiotics as a standard treatment for lots of things. I have a hard time imagining non-specialist doctors not treating a pediatric e.coli infection with antibiotics.

But, it changes the story from "raw milk = evil" to "e.coli is a land of differences." Also, "Food Safety News" is published by an attorney who specializes in food poisoning liability cases... by no means a disinterested party.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:22 AM on February 2, 2016


I don't understand all of this. I've had raw milk, and it certainly tastes better IMO, but not good enough to take the risk. I normally drink grass-fed, pasteurized, unhomogenized milk from the local farmers market and it's like 95% of the way there in terms of flavor compared to raw milk. It's pretty much double the price (~$7/gal) of what you get at Publix or Kroger, but it's worth it to me because I love milk. I get the whole microbial aspect of it with regard to cheesemaking, but to risk your health and the health of others you presumably care about in pursuit of some dubious health benefit, or just pure flavor preference, nah.
posted by dudemanlives at 11:24 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


In undergrad (at a state school with a large agricultural program, no less) I worked in a department largely staffed by anti-science leftist nutritionists, and we all went in on a raw milk share together at a local farm for a couple of years. A few grad students in the program made comments about how we were all insane and I didn't think much of it at the time. Fortunately I did my homework and got the hell out of there before I got pregnant. It was tasty milk and I liked supporting a local farm, and felt good about the way they treated their cows, but it's just not worth the risk.
posted by libraritarian at 11:34 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I wasn't suggesting that. But it does seem likely she was given a course of antibiotics as part of standard treatment, I mean, doctors (still!) often prescribe antibiotics as a standard treatment for lots of things. I have a hard time imagining non-specialist doctors not treating a pediatric e.coli infection with antibiotics.

But, it changes the story from "raw milk = evil" to "e.coli is a land of differences."
She may or may not have been given antibiotics depending on the judgement of her physicians in relation to her condition as well as their educated appraisal of the current medical debate, and them either deciding to treat her or not treat her, whatever they did, may indeed have been worse than the alternative given the ambiguity of the current legitimate controversy. However, she was unambiguously put into the position of needing to rely on her physicians, who likely were in fact ID specialists, making that difficult judgement call by the dangers inherent to raw milk.
Also, "Food Safety News" is published by an attorney who specializes in food poisoning liability cases... by no means a disinterested party."
I've never met the dude, but I know of him by reputation, and he made his chops suing Jack in the Box and then other major food corporations to compensate their victims and convince them to be careful about shit in the food. They way he worked with Jack in the Box is one of the reasons why Jack in the Box is now the gold standard in being super careful about shit in the food. I can't imagine there is much money in suing raw milk nuts, and I've only ever heard him talked about as a successful but super decent guy who went into law for the right reasons.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2016 [30 favorites]


I look at Pasteurization and think, Wow, how lucky was I to grow up in a time when milk is safe to drink. I look at vaccination and think Wow, I'm so glad I didn't have to get whooping cough or Polio and I'm incredibly thankful my son was protected against chicken pox and doesn't have to worry about shingles, and my grandson, who may grow up in a post-antibiotic world, may live to see medical advances that keep him safe.

Some medical advances aren't so great. Sometimes, what looks like progress has a bad result over time. Western medicine has been opposed to pretty much any other way of thinking for quite a while. And, certainly in the US, medicine is a massive profit center, and not always to the benefit of patients. And I'll still stick with a lot of what Western medicine has to offer, especially when it comes to public health. There's probably academic infighting in public health, the mess in Flint, MI shows that corruption is real, but there's not the kind of profit motive that leads to cheating, and there are a lot of genuinely dedicated people doing good work. If I want to resist being part of the corporate machine, I'll buy local, I'll talk to the people at the farmer's market about how they grow their produce, and I'll think twice before I believe any claims. The food supply in the US isn't well-supervised or tested, and consumers should be wary.

I had food poisoning a year ago. Was quite ill for 3 days of tea, ice chips or sips of ginger ale being all I could consume. I'm not so young any more; my son and I both had the rare steak and he recovered a lot faster.

Doctors may have accepted the risks of antibiotics to someone's kidneys because you can live with 1 kidney or look for a transplant, if the antibiotic is all that might stop a massive systemic infection.

Food-poisoning expert reveals 6 foods he refuses to eat
posted by theora55 at 11:51 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


ennui.bz, if you really want to interrogate the biases of attorney Bill Marler, the dude who publishes the website, here is a Seattle Times piece that I think is a pretty fair appraisal of who he is and what he does.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised this is becoming an issue. Before pasteurization became ubiquitous, I remember raw milk would be boiled before being consumed. Fun times keeping an eye out for the milk bubbling up and splashing all over the stove top! Of course, this was before cable TV, the internet and how to videos.
posted by 0cm at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Tom Cowan, a family practice doctor in San Francisco and a founding member of the Price Foundation, has been recommending raw milk to his patients for 20 years. None of them, he says, has ever gotten sick from drinking it."
a fiendish thingy, just as a general thing in terms of how to assess advice from people who claim to be subject matter experts, beyond how his advice goes counter to the current scientific consensus and how he is at least not being quoted as being super careful to communicate that. There is something about becoming a subject matter expert in whatever your tiny sliver of your field is, that absolutely should engender a deep sense of humility about the shit you don't know, and I at least have learned to trust people who communicate an awareness of their own limitations a hell of a lot more.

This dude absolutely does not know that none of his patients have ever gotten sick from raw milk, all he knows assuming he is even being honest, is that he has never had a patient report illness to him that he then determined was from raw milk. Given his embarrassingly clear biases, his enthusiasm for obvious but profitable scams, and willingness to inflate his expertise, I wouldn't trust this dude's ability to adequately interrogate his patients' symptoms for signs that they could have been caused by raw milk any further than I could throw him. Our liberal communities are filled with hacks like this asshole with book deals and profitably bullshit products to sell who prey on our distrust for authority, even when trust is earned, for a quick buck and whatever jollies they get from being the woo king of their own bullshit hill.

Fuck him, fuck all the bullshit artists like him, and fuck enabling them with our silence.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2016 [49 favorites]


Blasdelb, to be clear, I wasn't posting from that article to advocate for raw milk, or on behalf of raw milk, or as a fan of raw milk. Never had it, don't plan to. When I say I'm interested in raw milk, I mean I'm interested in the rhetoric of raw milk advocates and the types of framing they use to justify their choices. I'm interested in it as a subject, not a substance to consume.

I'm posting sections from that article (which I used to teach in a class about rhetoric) because people here were saying "how can anyone anywhere think that it is safe to drink raw milk?" and "is it really liberals who are advocating for raw milk?" And I pulled a few sections that speak directly to that fact. Some people think it is safe because they literally have pediatricians who tell them so. And yes, many raw milk advocates are on the left, as the quotes I mentioned point out.

Trust me, I don't plan to put my health and well-being of Dr. Cowan. The point of that article is: why are so many people willing to trust people like him, but not the FDA?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:09 PM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Amen, Blasdelb. I'm just reading The Way of Science, and it calls on us to stand up for the scientific method wherever we can.

As a pale Northern European, I'd really like to apologize on behalf of my people's genetic mutation that made milk drinking a thing.
posted by scruss at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, I scrolled up and looked at my comments and realized I didn't make my non-endorsement of raw milk very clear at all! Sorry if I seemed like I was endorsing raw milk, because NO.

I'm just completely fascinated by the history of pasteurization, and food adulteration, and how frightened people were of refrigeration when it started (how frightened? VERY), and how many of the changes in the way we consume dairy have caused the current situation, and how urbanization and our understanding of bacteriology have impacted food safety over the past 150 years.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:14 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Weston A. Price Foundation is woo of the highest order.

But raw milk is just delicious. I stopped drinking it when I got pregnant and haven't had any since, but dude. So good. That assessment is probably confounded by the fact that if you want non-homogenized milk from a grass-fed heritage-breed dairy cow (which is where 95% of the deliciousness derives) around where I live, it's probably also gonna be raw. I suppose I could heat it at home, though, right? I've got a food thermometer.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fuck him, fuck all the bullshit artists like him, and fuck enabling them with our silence.

YES!!! My brother-in-law is one of these bullshit artists. He's paying his living expenses and his kid's college education on the money he's making from gullible and desperate people. I'd link to him but I'm more concerned about my confidentiality than his.

He sent my mother-in-law to a quack clinic that came within hours of killing her. When we came to get her, the "therapists" were giving her; a woman with liver failure and severe edema, infusions and enemas and having her drink beet juice all day. Also "detoxifying her liver" through "ionizing foot baths". He cares far more for his internet reputation, his biases and his money making ability than he does for his own mother. Literally.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


When I was a kid visiting my grandmother, the milk lady would come every day. She's basically drive through the neighourhood with a barrel of milk she'd milked from the cow that day and anyone who wanted to buy milk would run out with a big pot and buy as much milk as they wanted that day. Then they would take their pot of milk inside and boil* it on the stove for an hour or two. I can't remember if they removed the cream before and after, but the cream made these skin-like solids that people would eat on their toast.

I assume that milk was raw when it was bought then, right? Was the boiling the same as pasteurization? (I'm guessing not because I never liked the taste of that milk) Was it an adequate substitute for pasteurization? And if so, why don't these families who are so afraid of industrial milk take their raw milk home and boil it before putting it in the fridge?

* Maybe they didn't boil it all the way to boiling? I feel like your'e not supposed to do that with milk, but they definitely called it boiling.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:48 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Since childhood, I've been a strong advocate for the POV that fresh milk is for calves. I enjoy raw milk cheeses, milk- and cream- and butter-based sauces. Milk that is cooked and transformed.

As a teen, I often had raw (still warm) milk on my strawberries at my friend's house. It was delicious. Her dad, the dairy farmer, was quite emphatic that any milk that was more than a few minutes from milking should only be drunk pasteurized. But that the fresh raw milk was a a delicacy.

I don't agree entirely with myself. Though, how many kids today live next to a small farm with grass-fed cows and state of the art technology which is still basically a sustenance homestead?

And I just don't get why any parent would expose their child to unpasteurized milk (later than a few minutes after milking).

So many children - and adults - have died. Has this knowledge been lost from living memory?
posted by mumimor at 1:49 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


"As a teen, I often had raw (still warm) milk on my strawberries at my friend's house. It was delicious. Her dad, the dairy farmer, was quite emphatic that any milk that was more than a few minutes from milking should only be drunk pasteurized. But that the fresh raw milk was a a delicacy."
Oh man, it really is pretty different.

Now I am not your microbiologist, and this is not in any sense microbiological advice, but when I had goats I fucking loved fresh milk right out of the goat on fruit and cereal in the morning. I only did it because I had direct access to the goats in question, I didn't need to trust some busy commercial farmer's sense of what is hygenic, I was a young adult dude in good shape who could ride out at least most (though sure as fuck not all) of what I was risking coming my way, and I hadn't really outgrown my teenage sense of risk - but I can confirm that right out of the goat is a different experience. I'm a bit older, I hope a bit wiser, and have more health issues today so I probably wouldn't do it now, but I do get the impulse at least when its right out of the critter.

Drinking unpasteurized milk out of a bottle is just inexcusably stupid in any context and there honestly is no blindly detectable difference by the time its cold. Also, to be clear, even straight out of the critter is still pretty stupid and not a good idea, particularly for children, the elderly, people with health problems, and women of childbearing age.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:18 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am sympathetic to parents whose children are harmed, but I am frustrated by these people who only believe in the possibility of harm when it has already happened, close enough to them to be real to them. I had a bunch of friends who did cow-shares when our kids were young, and all this information about the risks of raw milk and the benefits of pasteurization was available to them. They knew about it, and they dismissed it. I'm glad none of their kids got sick, and I'm very sorry for what happened to the kids mentioned in the article, but there's some part of me that reacts badly to the parents and farmers becoming Cassandras now.
posted by not that girl at 2:33 PM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


> I can confirm that right out of the goat is a different experience

Putting the goat back in the fridge, however, can be a problem.
posted by scruss at 2:54 PM on February 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


There is as much anti-science on the left as on the right.

Not even close. Not even kind of close. This is a difference that would have to be measured in continents rather than ballparks.
posted by IAmUnaware at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Blasdelb, I agree.
But as a biologist, you must also agree that risk increases with every minute the milk is out of the cow, warm or cold?

Anyway, I tried to make it clear that my friend's dad was a sustenance farmer with a small commercial milk production entirely based on grass. They had maybe 20 cows and two or three sows, a lot of bad grazing land and a tiny bit of bad corn to feed the pigs with. I'm that old.
They sold a bit of milk to the local dairy and some hay to the local stables, which gave them money for a bit of rye bread, a few cases of beer, and some oats for everything including my friend's pony. They didn't even have poultry, they traded pieces of pork or game for poultry.

In my area, ponies for urban kids were the money "crop", and apart from my friend's pony they had a beautiful breeding mare. But they had no money for investments or for just going to shows.

The guy who bought the farm couldn't make a living off it at all, even with an extra job. (He's my friend still, and we work together).

From our point of view now, they were dirt poor. Back then, they were seen as rich. I'm that old.
posted by mumimor at 2:59 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Was the boiling the same as pasteurization? (I'm guessing not because I never liked the taste of that milk)

Maybe it's similar to evaporated milk to some degree?
Evaporated milk is fresh, homogenized milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed. After the water has been removed, the product is chilled, stabilized, packaged and sterilized. It is commercially sterilized at 240-245 °F (115-118 °C) for 15 minutes. A slightly caramelized flavor results from the high heat process, and it is slightly darker in color than fresh milk.
It tastes a bit odd and I wouldn't want to drink it straight but I actually kind of like it in coffee.
posted by XMLicious at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2016


XMLicious already mentioned it but it worth repeating: pasteurization of milk is good for more than curbing what we think of as food-borne illnesses. It was one of our best weapons in combatting tuberculosis which was a scourge for centuries or millennia. And still is in many places.

Raw milk means tuberculosis. And it is an awful disease.
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


But, it changes the story from "raw milk = evil" to "e.coli is a land of differences."

I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. e. coli O157:H7 is dangerous without antibiotic treatment. It seems that it may not be made less dangerous with which means you really don't want to get it. Raw milk isn't evil but it may be risky and claiming otherwise as a seller of milk is unethical.
posted by atoxyl at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was the boiling the same as pasteurization? (I'm guessing not because I never liked the taste of that milk)

It's a related process. Pasteur realized that you could apply less heat than that and still kill most of the bad stuff, while retaining flavor. (I'm not even sure if he tried it on milk himself. His original experiments were on wine. )
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2016


I have recently switched to drinking unhomogenised full fat milk, and it is amazing. Reading comments around the web by people praising the taste of raw milk, I am sure that 90% of what they are appreciating is just that the milk is creamy and unhomogenised. They can get that without the bacteria!
posted by lollusc at 5:25 PM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


So...my understanding is that raw milk can transmit life-threatening infections -- particularly if you're a young child. Or, you can heat the milk to a temperature that kills viruses and bacteria and have virtually zero risk of dying from bacterial or vital infections.

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

"Efforts to limit the sale of raw milk products have been opposed by people who claim there are health benefits from natural factors in milk that are inactivated by pasteurization. However, the benefits of these natural elements have not been clearly demonstrated in scientific research. Numerous data show pasteurized milk provides the same nutritional benefits as raw milk, without the risk of deadly infections including Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Brucella and E. coli."

What exactly is the argument against pasteurization? Some "natural factors" that will magically fix all of your health woes?
posted by forkisbetter at 5:50 PM on February 2, 2016


What exactly is the argument against pasteurization?

AFAICT, it's the push-back against processed food gone overboard.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:57 PM on February 2, 2016


I don't believe any of the health woo but I do think raw milk tastes amazing.

I don't do it anymore since it's a hassle to find a new supplier after he was busted but the few times I had ordered a "cowshare" from a local Amish farmer that got me a gallon a week I was very happy. Drinking it only for myself, not to children. The farmer took tests daily for white blood cell load, had maybe a dozen cows at most.
posted by Karaage at 6:01 PM on February 2, 2016


What exactly is the argument against pasteurization?

From conversations with a raw milk drinking, weston-price-following person, the impression I've gotten is that pasteurization is destroying nutrients, and possibly increasing allergies (or maybe it's just that raw milk decreases allergies?). I think there is also a belief that raw milk fights off pathogens. Which is painfully and humorlessly ironic.

But I went to look online for this person I talked to about milk, and I got distracted by this ad she has posted: "The Q-Disc 3.0 bioenergetically protects the cellular biophotonic communication of the wearer from all types of cell phone emissions with the power of paramagnetic harmonic values via the use of a combination of earth-based elements. Thus, inside the Q-Disc is a proprietary media consisting of a full spectrum of highly paramagnetic elements which are then encased in our Vastu-designed, geometrically precise Q-Disc sheath."

Which...I mean, that is why I'm not trusting this person with nutritional advice.
posted by mittens at 6:07 PM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Pasteurization kills all the pathogens but it also kills the midichlorians which would otherwise give you Jedi powers. We would all be throwing lightning bolts and levitating X-Wing fighters if it wasn't for the machinations of Big Dairy. (Ruled from the shadows by Dairyth Vader, of course.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


cows are just generally gross animals IMO
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:44 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've drank lots of raw milk, in the US and in other countries. As far as I know it's never made me sick, and as others have said fresh raw milk tastes amazing.

I'm ok with taking a number of personal health risks from food and drink, including raw meat, untreated water, and so on. That's a personal risk/reward calculus I make with open eyes and with a reasonable knowledge of how risky these things are, as well as with absolutely zero belief in any woo-ish health benefits. Some things just taste good enough in their natural state to be worth consuming that way once in a while, in situations where I have a lot of confidence in the supply chain and where I am prepared to live with any consequences.

At the same time, I'm ok with public health rules being made that prioritize health over tastiness, though with some caveats (among them that some other industrialized countries manage to have great food safety while accommodating things that the US struggles with).
posted by Dip Flash at 7:04 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I tried raw milk once at a UK market. It tasted fabulous, and this comes from someone who detests milk and stopped drinking it the moment my grandmother finally got off my back about how my skeleton would collapse under its own weight if I didn't drink a few glasses every day.

That said, I live in Australia. Australia is the capital of "just because it's 'natural' doesn't mean it won't find horrible agonizing ways to kill you." So.
posted by olinerd at 7:15 PM on February 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


My mother drank raw milk in India in the 70s and was chronically ill for the following decade or so. I remember as a small child her having take multiple pills a day. Finally a third of her liver calcified over and that seemed to cure it. I was so young I don't know if it was E. coli or not, but it wasn't good. Luckily you only need half your liver to live and she had no further problems after it calcified over.

I'm fairly sure this is why I was never forced to drink milk as a child.
posted by whoaali at 7:50 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not even close. Not even kind of close. This is a difference that would have to be measured in continents rather than ballparks.

A right-wing conservative that doesn't believe in climate change will destroy human civilization 100 years from now.

A lefty, Whole Foods-shopping, raw food enthusiast, anti-vaxxer will kill your child tonight.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:21 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like my raw dairy products, the riskiest I've ever done is Bonny Clabber. A fresh cheese made by sitting raw milk out to clabber in its own acids, strained, salted, and seasoned with sage, garlic and dill. Not good enough to risk a second batch.

I'll still make me some raw yogurt and cheeses, but won't sell or trade any of them except for cheeses aged for 2 or more months. Most people aren't well enough informed for Risk Aware Consentual Cheese.
posted by ridgerunner at 8:54 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suppose I could heat it at home, though, right? I've got a food thermometer.

The standard recipe in several cheese books is 145F for 30 minutes, then rapidly cooled. That is much gentler than what the large dairies do.
posted by ridgerunner at 9:21 PM on February 2, 2016


In France we used to get raw milk from the local farm but my aunt boiled it (as a big batch) before drinking. Still super delicious and the boiling gave it a custardly type skin. Mmmmmm.

In Germany we got raw milk from a farm and drank it raw. Fun fact - if you were the first child to pour a glass and you 'accidently' forgot to stir it up so the cream distributed evenly, you needed a shit tonne of cocoa to make it look appropriately chocolately. So you got extra cream and extra cocoa. Good times.

I don't know why it didn't strike me as unsafe given that the boiled milk in France came before the unboiled milk in Germany.
posted by kitten magic at 9:36 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


What exactly is the argument against pasteurization?

I linked this up-thread, but raw milk makes different cheese. The whole process of cheesemaking is to get various microorganisms growing in the milk and converting it to something delicious. If you start with dead milk you have to add new cultures back, whereas raw milk has a bunch of stuff to start with. A living culture that centuries of cheesemaking tradition is based on.

Part of the art of cheesemaking is encouraging healthy things to grow in the milk to out-compete dangerous things like listeria. It works when it's done right and carefully. Particularly in France, which has a thriving raw milk cheese tradition. Pasteurization is not a foolproof method for food safety either, contamination can occur later down the line in the cheese production process.

The above all applies to raw milk for making cheese, a processed food. I'm much less clear about why you'd risk drinking industrial raw milk straight from the bottle.
posted by Nelson at 8:49 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like Lollusc, I find non-homogenized whole milk - the kind sold in glass bottles - to be a great compromise between taste and safety. I'm lucky to live in Northern California, where these people sell their non-homogenized milk to local grocery stores. It's so much better than what I grew up with (skim milk, in cartons, and not always the freshest, UGH UGH UGH) - I always thought I hated milk but I really do like this kind. I highly recommend the pasteurized but non-homogenized stuff, which won't hurt you or any immuno-compromised folks or kids.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:15 AM on February 3, 2016


A right-wing conservative that doesn't believe in climate change will destroy human civilization 100 years from now.

A lefty, Whole Foods-shopping, raw food enthusiast, anti-vaxxer will kill your child tonight.


I suspect that Cool Papa Bell means the second one to sound worse, but destruction of human civilization is a wee bit more serious than the death of even a lot of individual children, however amazing those kids are. And the idea that something happening tonight should be taken hugely more serious than something happening in 100 years is what got us into this climate change mess in the first place.
posted by lollusc at 5:35 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


(It's not like the destruction of human civilization is not also going to kill a hell of a lot of kids, after all.)
posted by lollusc at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2016


Again, anti-vaxx is solid Tea Party doctrine now. I feel CPB is getting his stereotypes muddled.

A suspicion of standard authorities on health and medical issues is found on the right and left extremes and is more a function of their essential contrariness and hostility to perceived conventional wisdom than anything else..
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:52 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


"There is as much anti-science on the left as on the right."

People are trying to study this question. This paper is about the effect of conspiracist thinking on peoples' acceptance of science, but it also contains some observations about general worldview:
We conducted a propensity weighted internet-panel survey of the U.S. population and show that conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to GM. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science.
posted by sneebler at 7:45 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]




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