What An Udder Drama...

A journalist from the Telegraph contacted me this afternoon asking for my comment on the ‘raw milk debate’.

I warbled hopelessly through some responses to her rather firey and probing questions (I’d just got the kid to sleep and it wasn’t exactly a conversation I was ready for)…

I’m half-expecting some extra traffic to Folkklore since after I declined permission to quote me or publish my full name, she retorted that everything I have posted online (namely Folkklore and Facebook) was public domain and that she would pull content accordingly (fair enough, though very ‘Telegraph’…)

And so, there are some follow up items I’d like to address both in response to her ‘interview’ and in addition to my last posting:

  • The journalist explained that she had found me listed as a contact online for sourcing illegal, raw milk for human consumption ‘under the radar’… This is bull-dust . I provide enquirers with a list of retailers legally selling raw milk as a cosmetic product when directly requested. I never discuss, much less recommend, consuming it or giving it to children
  • I am in no way an official advocate for the consumption of raw milk. I choose to drink it myself, for reasons that make sense to me and are nobody else’s freakin’ business. I’m seriously not interested in being a spokesperson for raw milk. I’m lazy and time-poor and the issue is, especially currently, too dramatic for my tranquil existence
  • I believe that anyone choosing to consume raw milk does so having researched its potential benefit versus its potential risk factors and have made their decision from that point. Just shy of $10 for a 2L bottle, this is not usually a flippant decision…
  • In regards to the current legislation regarding the sale of raw milk for human consumption in Australia, I personally believe that we are decades behind a large portion of the Western world (namely many parts of Europe and states of the USA). Because raw milk is illegal to sell for human consumption in Australia, the product is not regulated, pushing its consumption into ‘contraversial’ territory if something goes awry and there's a possible link
  • Raw milk is a statistically low-risk food in regards to pathogens when compared to many other foods that are legally sold for human consumption. Surely this calls for legalization and regulation of raw milk in Australia, since the demand for it is clear? Just my opinion...
  • The new raw milk reform in Victoria that requires producers to add a bittering agent (sourced from anti-freeze) to their supplies is both deeply disturbing and ludicrously, reactively dramatic. It seems infinitely more sensible to legalise and regulate raw milk, right? So why not? The intentional, compulsory tampering of a low-risk product designed to render it unpalateable does seem rather… Umm… Dictatorship-ish? Non? Being rendered physically unable to EAT/DRINK a whole, traditional food item (sold legally as a foodstuff in many, many parts of the world) due to a legally compulsory, synthetic addition seems like a fundamental violation of a basic human right – food sovereignty. But heck, that’s just my opinion
  • Much of the government/media furor about raw milk has hinged on the fact that it’s packaged in an identical manner, and located in healthfood store fridges beside legally ‘drinkable’ pastuerised milk. Despite all raw milk retailed in Australia being clearly,adequately labeled as a cosmetic or pet product, it seems the government and media have deemed the ‘association’ with legal dairy to be harmfully misleading. And so, I ask, why were packaging and location changes not deemed a more prudent reform before rushing towards the compulsory addition of a toxic, bittering agent? It’s pretty insane, when you think about it
  • The reporter who called me got rather riled up about the ‘2 year old who died and three other toddlers who became gravely ill as a direct result of drinking raw milk!’ I want to reiterate this: there is currently no coroners report linking the illnesses and death to raw milk consumption. Can we PLEASE calm down until the link is deemed ‘official’ or not?
  • And in the meantime, might we also consider the other foodborne related deaths and illnesses that tick over, unsensationalised by the media, each and every year? Peanuts, anyone? It’s estimated that 3 in every 100 children in Australia have a potentially anaphylactic peanut allergy, and yet these nuggets are freely available as a legal food item? Other sources of food borne illness? How about beef? Chicken? Food-court fruit salad? PASTUERISED DAIRY PRODUCTS? What about all the safe, legal foods that are  linked to  illnesses and deaths? Food’s a freaking battlefield, so it seems.  Don’t. Eat. Anything.
  • Ultimately, as someone who chooses to drink raw milk (but I generally don’t make a big freaking deal out of it), the current ‘debate’ is both disheartening and darkly hilarious. All I want is to be able to source my good-stuff: legal and regulated. And that's what producers want to provide. I’m not diving ‘under the radar’ to whiten my coffee, I’m just simply using a product I bought in a different way to than is specified on the label.

Science and Scandal

For those opting to be swept away by the ludicrous sensationalism of the Victorian 'raw milk death' and who have made their righteous declaration that this child's parents are stupid, egotistical, ‘anti-science’, hippy morons who should be charged with manslaughter…

It's great to know that you've spent the last 10 hours completely immersed in a thorough academic review of the myriad cross-sectional studies offering very strong evidence for the benefits of raw milk consumption in children, particularly in protecting against the development of asthma and allergies. Using your remarkable scientific skill set, you have managed to systematically and categorically debunk all that data!

You’ve also determined that even though calcium phosphate, the available calcium in cow’s milk, is heat sensitive; precipitating and becoming insoluble at pasteurisation temperatures, that there is absolutely no nutritional benefit to consuming untreated milk! Let's not bother talking about vitamin C, B6 or beta-lactoglobin, and who cares about copper, manganese and iron? Way to knock basic chemistry on its head!

Not only that, but you have also determined, from your extensive analysis of the FSANZ 2009 document, ‘Microbiological Risk Assessment Of Raw Cow Milk’ that an estimated 1 case of campybacteriosis (0.001%), 97 cases of E. coli (0.097%), 153 (0.153%) cases of salmonellosis and 170 (0.170) cases of listeriosis per 100,000 servings of raw milk determines it an extremely high-risk foodstuff. Holy shit: it’s Russian Roulette! And I mean that scientifically!

As a leading gastroenterological diagnostician, you thoroughly understand that Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome – the E. coli complication that likely led to the death of this toddler (coroners report pending) – occurs in around 10% of reported E. coli cases, and that 5% of this percentage of cases results in death. Because the risk of developing HUS is clearly SO HIGH, you not only condemn the utterly irresponsible consumption of raw milk, but you have also removed every other known source of E. coli from your child’s diet and lifestyle – no more lettuce, sprouts, spinach, salami, sushi or fruit juices for you, honey! Get your mitts off that rockmelon! No more swimming either kiddo, the water is almost certainly contaminated! In fact, I just don’t think you should drink anymore either. And wash your hands again, sweetheart, before we eat our utterly charred beef for dinner

If we’re going to play the ‘science’ game, let's apply some rationality amid the sensationalistic, compassionless chaos.