Tuesday, 24 Jun, 2008 Health & Fitness

Raw Milk - Bless or Curse?


The United States have been swept by a new healthy food craze - raw milk. Thousands of Americans are eager to buy unpasteurized dairy products as they believe they will cure any disease - from asthma to depression. The problem is that selling and buying unpasteurized dairy products is illegal in many states as their consumption is considered unsafe.

US enthusiasts, ready to pay up to 20 US dollars for a gallon of raw milk, feel like they are drug traffickers when buying it.

It has been estimated that about half a million people consume the "natural" alternative to pasteurized dairy products in the United States, and their number has been rapidly growing in recent years.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration strongly believes that the consumption of raw milk is unsafe no matter how carefully it is produced. They stress that unpasteurised dairy products can carry pathogens such as salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and E.coli, killed during pasteurization.

In the period of 2005-2006, the FDA registered over ten illness outbreaks caused by the consumption of raw dairy products. However, a recent study that involved 15,000 European children proved that drinking farm milk may keep us against asthma and allergy.

Despite all the warnings, many Americans do not trust the government, avidly supporting the raw milk's health benefits, including the useful bacteria and enzymes missing from pasteurized dairy products. They believe raw milk helps those with gastrointestinal problems. They say there are no health risks when the cows and the equipment are clean, the cows eat grass and the milk and muck are regularly tested.

In California, it is legal to sell raw milk sales and it is estimated that about 40,000 people consume the milk in the state, while the authorities fulfill special inspections every month and all diary products feature health warnings. Still, it is not legal to export raw milk to other states. The only exception is when the product is considered a dietary supplement containing colostrum got from cows that have just given birth.

One more exception is raw milk sold as pet food, but the authorities believe some people buy it for themselves.

In some states, farmers are allowed to sell raw milk, having signed cow-share agreements - customers buy a percentage of milk produced for a fee. In other cases, dairy farmers require a permit, not to face serious consequences, such as confiscation of equipment and food, prosecution, a jail term and fines reaching many thousands of dollars.

Mark Nolt, a farmer from Pennsylvania and father of ten children, was arrested in April at his farm for selling raw dairy products without a permit. He lost about 25,000 US dollars of equipment and food that were confiscated. In fact, the farmer had a permit, but did not take any action when it expired as it prohibited him from selling yoghurt or butter produced from raw milk.

The farmer is presently fighting the authorities in court. He claims he has a constitutional right for a private business and the state has absolutely no jurisdiction under that. Mark Nolt says his products cannot possibly make anybody ill. One of his raw milk customers, Lyn Rales, is holding a fundraiser for the farmer at her home outside Washington, DC. She says she does not understand why raw milk should be such as issue as she, as well as other customers, is an adult making her own decisions.

But Chris Ryder, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, claims the law is the law and they will continue to take legal actions against Mark Nolt if he does not stop selling raw milk illegally.

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