Health officials and establishment doctors in West Virginia are not happy about giving the public greater access to raw milk.
The governor of West Virginia recently signed a new bill that will make it easier for some people to access and consume raw cow’s milk, which may surprise those who had no idea that it is largely illegal in the United States to share, trade, or buy raw, unpasteurized milk.
On March 3, 2016, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, signed new legislation that would allow people to share ownership of a dairy animal in a legal arrangement called “herd sharing,” which allows for the owners to receive milk from that animal for personal consumption. One of the stipulations of the bill (SB 387) is that the individuals who purchase the animal must sign a disclaimer, verifying that they acknowledge the potential risks associated with consuming raw milk. West Virginia’s Department of Agriculture will also distribute rules regulating consumption and require health tests for the animals.
Raw cow’s milk is generally off-limits to the general public, but some states do allow on-farm sales as well as herd shares directly from government approved farms. In the US, only 11 states allow the retail sale of raw milk, and this only applies from goats and sheep. Seventeen U.S. states prohibit any type of sale of raw milk for human consumption.
Retail sales of raw milk will continue to be illegal in West Virginia, even after this new legislation, but the recent changes have re-energized the debate about raw vs. pasteurized milk and whether the government has the right to prosecute human beings for trading in milk.
Why the War on Raw Milk?
Many very unhealthy, potentially carcinogenic foods such as processed meats, food additives and artificial food dyes, are legal and widely consumed throughout the United States, with little warning regarding their potential health risks. So why are Americans not allowed to enjoy raw milk, which has been a nutritious staple of the human diet for many generations? Why do police and SWAT teams raid raw milk vendors to put them out of business for trading in raw milk and other natural foods?
In 1987, the FDA mandated pasteurization of all milk and milk products for human consumption, effectively banning the shipment of raw milk in interstate commerce with the exception of cheese made from raw milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Public Health Veterinarians, the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association openly oppose pro-raw milk legislation, seeking to ban it from public and even private consumption.
The mainstream argument against raw milk is that it is more likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria than pasteurized milk, and thereby a threat to public health. Dr. Michael Brumage, health officer at the West Virginia Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, made the broad claim, “I think everybody in public health is opposed, unequivocally, to selling anything but pasteurized milk to the public.”
This statement is of course far too general for critical thinkers who understand that pasteurization, a process that heats raw milk up in order to kill bacteria, also destroys many of the primary benefits of drinking milk in the first place. By destroying beneficial bacteria, proteins, and other enzymes that are tremendously beneficial to human health, many believe that pasteurization actually makes milk dangerous for human consumption.
An independent voice, also interested in public health, offers this perspective:
Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk. (Source)
According to the US Center for Disease Control, between the years 1998 to 2011, a mere two deaths resulted from a disease outbreak potentially linked to consuming raw milk or raw milk products. Raw milk sales are quite popular in European countries, were even raw milk vending machines are common.
Raw milk coming from pastured animals used to be widely accepted as an excellent natural therapy by medical doctors for a variety of diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and even cancer. The “milk diet” prescribed by doctors in the beginning of 20th century involved drinking exclusively up to 4 quarts of certified medicinal raw milk. (Source)
People apparently don’t agree on this issue at all. In response to West Virginia’s new law, Dr. Michael Brumage made the comment:
I cannot understand why we would knowingly put people’s health at risk for something with no nutritional benefit over pasteurized milk.
Decriminalizing something is not the same as forcing it on people who don’t want it, so Dr. Brumage’s argument overlooks one of the most important tenets of our society: personal freedom.
What do you think? Should raw milk be prohibited and treated like illegal drugs, or should people have the right to buy what they like and consume the products that have sustained our families for many generations?