Column: Don't promote legal sale of raw milk

11:51 AM, May 9, 2013  |  Comments
Dr. Peter Schreiner
Dr. Peter Schreiner
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After reading John Bandow's passionate plea to legalize the sale of raw milk (printed in several local newspapers) I would like to make a few comments:

1. John states that it took the threat of filing a Freedom of Information Act to get the CDC to cough up the source of its anti-raw milk data. It took me a few minutes on a search engine to find the CDC paper that quotes data from 1998-2011 in which there were 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations, and two deaths due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products. The scientific article published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 2012 (the 1993-2006 study) was just as easy to find.

2. The 1,300 plus people John refers to who were sickened by pasteurized milk in 2006 were from 11 state prisons with a common source prison run dairy. Investigators determined the cause to be spoiled milk after pasteurization. The 1985 Salmonella outbreak in Illinois causing as many as 200,000 illnesses and 18 deaths was due to pasteurized milk contaminated after pasteurizing due to a mixing line that harbored the bacteria.

3. John, you tell us your granddaughter had her allergies reduced by 50 percent when she switched to drinking raw milk. Does this mean she was evaluated by an allergist, given a list of allergens she reacts adversely to, and now is not allergic to half of them? Or, is she still allergic to all, only half as bad? What professional evaluated that? It is amazing that the same 50 percent reduction in allergies due to drinking raw milk is used in's propaganda. I've heard sterile owl urine can cure hemorrhoids but is a pain in the butt to collect.

4. Then there is Dr. J.R. Crewe of the Mayo Foundation. This article was published in Certified Milk Magazine, January 1929. Dr. Crewe had people drinking 5 to 10 quarts of raw milk a day, being put in a "sweat box" to perspire profusely, and were given daily enemas (side note: I think if I drank 2 1/2 gallons of raw milk a day I wouldn't need an enema). The "cures" were amazing. Dr. Crewe cites a leading medical text of the day (this is 1929, remember?), Dr. William Osler's Principles and Practices of Medicine. In that book Osler tells us, "Milk as being nothing more than white blood." At least we know where the next logical thought process of Charles Darwin went to. At the very end of Dr. Crewe's article he does say the treatment is "too simple" but also says, "There are many pitfalls." Oh really, what are they? Illness and death?

In closing, all perishable food needs to be handled with care (see item 2). Before pasteurization was widely accepted, about one fourth of all foodborne diseases were traced to dairy products. Diseases such as brucellosis and tuberculosis have not been eradicated, and there is a concern in epidemiological circles that the present practice of raising dairy young stock in central plains feedlots may bring bovine tuberculosis to the forefront once again.

Let's not play with fire when real science tells us to back off. Do not promote the legal sale of raw milk.

Dr. Peter Schreiner resides in Stratford.

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