A word about raw milk, if you will

SDMB, can we just give up the illusion that drinking unpasteurized milk is somehow as safe as drinking pasteurized milk? Because, y’know, it’s not. It varies from being as safe as licking a barn floor to drinking pasteurized milk. And that’s just too much room for me.

Here are some things that can be in your unpasteurized milk:
[li]cryptosporidium – causes severe diarrhea; can KILL children and people with comprised immune systems[]salmonella – again with the severe diarrhea and DEATH[]e. coli – bloody diarrhea and DEATHcampylobacter jejuni – watery, bloody diarrhea and DEATH[/ul][/li]
Anybody detecting a trend here? Well, don’t get too confident about that trend, because you can also get RABIES from raw milk if the cow that produced it had it. Also, all of the things in the bulleted list can be carried by cattle without presenting symptoms, so it’s possible for them to spread it without the humans around them being aware of it. It only takes one cow in the herd with e. coli to contaminate the entire bulk tank, thanks to the miracle of manure and herds.

Here’s something else to think about: Bacteria can multiply exponentially every 20 minutes at room temperature. This means if you leave your pitcher of raw milk on the counter while you’re at work, and it doesn’t have levels of bacteria high enough to make you sick when you take it out of the fridge, it will by the time you get home. In fact, in ten hours at room temperature, you can go from one cell to more than a billion. Fun, fun.

Here are some diseases that pasteurization can prevent:

[ul][li]tuberculosis – Drink raw milk if you want to cough up blood and waste away.[]scarlet fever – For those who want heart damage.[]polio – You know you’ve always wanted to be a gimp.typhoid fever – It’s like the 19th century never ended. Oh, wait. Pasteurization helped eliminate the spread of these diseases. Thanks, Louis Pasteur! You were really on to something there.[/ul][/li]
More from the FDA, who tends to take this sort of thing seriously.

The risks are increased for children, the elderly, people with diseases that compromise the immune system, and pregnant women. So, you know, pretty much anyone who isn’t male, between the ages of 16 and 60, and in good health. Obviously not a large part of the population [/sarcasm], but a large enough one for people to say, “Well, I’ve always drunk milk straight from the teat, and I’m perfectly fine! We used to just park the cow over the cereal bowl in the morning and let fly.”

The plural of anecdote is not anecdata, you silly fuckers. Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to other people or that it can’t happen to you.

Knowing the name of the cow it came from (oh my god, there are not enough rolleyes in the world) in no way guarantees the safety of the milk. The cleaning procedures for milking a cow don’t sterilize the teats OR the milk coming out of the cow. Those procedures aren’t fail safes; they’re precautions. And precautions don’t remove risk – they reduce it.

Here are some more reasons to not drink raw milk: The nutritional values (fat, carbs, vitamins and minerals) can’t be guaranteed like they can for pasteurized milk, because the fat levels, among others, in pasteurized milk are balanced at the milk plant. That why 2-percent milk really has only 2-percent milk fat in it. It doesn’t come out of the cow like that. You also can’t get Vitamin D-enriched raw milk, because that’s another thing that happens at a milk plant. (Vitamin D is what aids in calcium absorption in humans.) Also, the “health benefits” from drinking raw milk are so far unverified. It doesn’t reduce the chances of developing asthma or reduce the risk of arthritis. It does, however, increase the chances of having food poisoning.

Here’s a big one for me: It currently can’t be labeled Grade A, because the safety of it cannot be determined definitely. In order for fluid milk to be sold as drinkable milk, it has to be labeled Grade A, meaning that the farm it came from has passed inspections and complies with state and federal regulations, along with the hauling company and the processing plant. There’s no program to do that for raw milk, so the standards for it vary widely across the country, and in many states, it’s illegal to sell it.

The argument for drinking raw milk basically boils down to raw milk tasting better than pasteurized. That’s pretty tenuous reasoning for something with a lot of risk factors that many people drink on a daily basis.

It only takes one fuck-up to spread e. coli or campylobacter or brucellosis. But you know what? Pasteurization kills those bacteria! Kills 'em dead, dead, dead. Which is why it’s a good thing, and why people who drink raw milk are idiots.

Is this a parody?

The idea that raw milk is linked to rabies is absurd. There’s a theoretical link, but AFAICT there is not a single documented case in human history of rabies being transmitted through milk. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that it’d happen, given the short lifespan of rabies outside of a living host.

The idea that the only people who are safe from the dangers of raw milk are healthy males 16-60 is similarly stupid. There are plenty of females in the same age range who are not pregnant–and the idea that women should avoid raw milk on the off-chance that they might be pregnant and not realize it is borderline offensive.

And the FDA’s own scare-mongering link is able to come up with five stillbirths, three premature deliveries, and four infected children, over a period of six years. Yeah, those stillbirths are a cause for concern (although they all appear to be related to the same dairy). But hell, we’re hardly talking a public health crisis here. Your silly capitalization of DEATH! DEATH! DEATH! is only supportable for those SDMB members who are currently fetuses.

Of course, I’m probably being whooshed; it’d help if you’d link to the thread that you’re parodying, but when you do, I’ll take my lumps gracefully.


Holy cow. That’s a mooving rant you got there. Udderly fantastic. I’ve never had unpasteurized milk before, and I’ll have to seriously ruminate if I ever get the chance to try it.

Still, what’s the percent of getting those diseases?

I ask because I like my steaks medium rare, and you can have my bloody burgers when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

Doing a little more googling comes up with some better information:

That’s something that’s worth considering.

The thing is, we eat plenty of shit that can risk our health. In general the FDA’s response is to set up some sort of monitoring program to minimize the risk of contamination. We aren’t required to irradiate all meat before selling it, even though that’d pretty much eliminate the risk of e. coli outbreaks. Why should milk be held to a different standard?

I’ve never had raw milk, nor do I especially plan to. I just resent the implication that folks who do like it are idiots.


These guys seem to like it okay.

No, it’s not a parody. And the cases sited in the FDA article are only a sampling. In just 2001 and 2002, about 500 people became ill from consuming products made with raw milk, which is definitely more than illustrated by the three cases chosen to illustrate the risks.

There have been anecdotal cases of baby animals contracting rabies from their mothers through milk, but it doesn’t happen all that often. And people in New York have contracted TB from raw milk. One infant has died.

Look, there are plenty of people who are at increased risk from drinking raw milk, and once you eliminate those people, those who are safe drinking it dwindle to about 60 percent of the population, and are primarily composed of adult males in good health. (According to the CIA Factbook, 12.6 percent of the population are minors and 27.4 percent is over the age of 65. The estimate of 40 percent ignores the number of people who have diseases that comprise their immune systems or pregnant women.)

Most people heat their meat to an internal temperature that kills e. coli, though. Not so with milk. Which is why it’s pasteurized. It only takes heating it to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes to kill those bacteria.

And, yeah, you’re an idiot if you take the risk of drinking raw milk, when the drawbacks of it can be eliminated through pasteurization. Or if you claim that drinking raw milk is just as safe as pasteurized, when it’s clearly not. There are more risks than advantages, quite honestly.

On preview: The thousand illnesses there caused by raw milk are from only 1 percent of the milk sales in the United States. That’s a hell of a lot of sickness for something that is only the barest sliver of milk sales.

I agree, LHoD. Even if everyone who drinks raw milk is an idiot, I resent that I can’t choose to be an idiot. Okay, okay, I get it. I’ve read what you have to say, I’ve read the statistics, and I’d, perhaps, like to CHOOSE to drink the fucking milk anyway. I’m a literate thinking adult and I choose to do things far more dangerous every day, like drive a car and cross busy streets. Why am I allowed to choose those things but not allowed a little fresh moo juice (unless I own the cow)?

I don’t really know, because only a very small part of the population that drinks milk drinks raw milk, and as far as I know, no one has ever done a study figuring out the odds. Products made of raw milk and raw milk itself are only 1 percent of milk sales in the United States, which doesn’t reflect the number of people who buy raw milk products from other countries. (The people who got TB from raw milk cheese in New York got sick from Mexican cheese, apparently.) But raw milk does carry a higher risk of foodborne illness, just because it’s not pasteurized.

Personally, the message I get from the OP is pretty much encapsulated in its first sentence and I don’t get the condescension vibe that you and **LHoD **are harping on. Purl’s not telling you not to drink it, just to know the risks and don’t argue that it’s just as safe.

Well, to be precise, it is legal in more states than not; according to the Weston A. Price Foundation, 28 states permit the selling of raw milk for human consumption.

And I maintain my right to call you a moron because you expose yourself to something that carries a lot of risks and has no benefits that pasteurized milk won’t give you. If you want to be that moron, then go ahead.

Tell someone they’re an idiot for doing something idiotic, and they come back and tell you it’s their right. So be it. I get to tell you you’re stupid for doing it.

Well, if the diseases are communicable (like TB) then the state decides – rightly or wrongly – that your risky behavior is an unacceptable public health risk. You can still do it, even if it’s illegal, and it’s unlikely that the government will bring the hammer down on you (just like doing 60 in a 55). There are plenty of stories about black market raw milk. What, you don’t want to buy it on the black market? Come on, live a little! Where did your sense of adventure go? :smiley:

But the OP has not yet said that it should be illegal – only that doing it is stupid and also unhealthy, and that the people who choose to do it seem to think they’re doing it because it is somehow more natural and therefore healthier. Which the OP claims makes them idiots, and I’ve got to agree with her.

At the same time, I’m with WhyNot on the legality issue: let people be as stupid as they’d like, as long as they don’t expect my tax dollars to pay for a cork to shove up their asses when they’re shitting themselves hollow.

Damn edit window! Just noticed the last sentence of the OP and see that she is being somewhat condescending but I still agree with her and bow to her superior knowledge and expertise considering her background and upbringing. Drink it if you like but realize it’s a gamble, just like the raw ground beef I ate earlier tonight while making sloppy joes.

That’s from 2005. Since then, Wisconsin has eliminated its cow-share program, precisely because people have gotten sick. And only four states out of 50 allow the sale of raw milk in grocery stores and restaurants. (PDF here) In Wisconsin, you can only sell raw milk to your employees or the employees of a company involved in shipping the milk. However, you can’t advertise that you sell raw milk or solicit the general public. And if you sell your milk to a milk plant or cheese factory, then you can’t provide it to anyone who isn’t an employee or employee of a shipper.

I’ll also note that Canada, our neighbor to the north, flat out says that selling raw milk for human consumption is illegal. All milk for human consumption in Canada must be pasteurized.

RE: Milk…what-fucking-ever.
You’re clueless.
I suppose that I should now worry about my health at the age of 38 because of milk.
Give me a fucking break.
Take off the Birkenstoks and step away from reality, sir!

You’re against unpasteurized milk. I got it. Missed it last go around.

I took a college microbiology class a few years ago for fun. One session’s topic was designated as e.coli in the environment. The professor formerly worked as a quality control microbiologist in a beef grinding facility. One day he went into work and tested sample after sample that showed e.coli contamination in everything coming off of the line. He had a big decision to make. He decided what he needed to do.

It was:

Not to do a God damned thing. All ground beef is contaminated with e.coli. Your own body is contaminated with it as well right this second. It is all about the levels so those scary microbe threats are simply elevations of contaminants that occur in all such products. Sure things can go terribly wrong but simply noting the potential of a food borne illness without any context or apparent scientific knowledge simply means that all of you commentary must be disregarded. The OP is at an (attempted) GED level at best

As noted in my second post.

The ability to contract TB through raw milk is a reasonable thing to talk about. The potential to contract rabies through raw milk is absurd: most raw milk enthusiasts are, unlike baby animals, not suckling the teat. Again, rabies does not last long at all outside of a living host. Your risk of contracting rabies from raw milk that has ever seen the inside of a fridge is probably less than your risk of being trampled by a random herd of cattle–given that the latter has happened to a human before, it’s certainly less.

So what you’re saying is that the risks it poses to a substantial portion of the population–that is, males OR FEMALES who don’t have an immune-compromising condition and who are adults but not elderly–are minimal? That’s a far cry from suggesting that anyone who drinks raw milk is an idiot.

Cite? Plenty of people like their hamburgers medium rare or rarer, despite the FDA’s recommendation that hamburgers be cooked to medium or more. Are people who like medium-rare hamburgers also idiots?

How do you apply this risk-assessment to other areas of life? Are people who drive less-than-optimally-safe cars also idiots? What about people who don’t exercise as much as they should? People who live in cities with high crime rates?

Longevity is not the only goal of life. Many folks are willing to take a few risks in exchange for an improvement in the quality of their lives. If somebody decides that the risks behind raw milk are worth a perceived improvement in flavor, or worth any other trade-off at all, it’s ridiculous to call them an idiot for making that value judgment.

If your post pointed out the realistic risks behind raw milk (and dispensed with nonsense about rabies etc.), and didn’t call people morons for deciding to take those risks, it’d have been a valuable and insightful post. You overreached.


And, yeah, you’re an idiot if you take the risk of drinking raw milk, when the drawbacks of it can be eliminated through pasteurization. Or if you claim that drinking raw milk is just as safe as pasteurized, when it’s clearly not. There are more risks than advantages, quite honestly.

On preview: The thousand illnesses there caused by raw milk are from only 1 percent of the milk sales in the United States. That’s a hell of a lot of sickness for something that is only the barest sliver of milk sales.

Obviously, I should’ve included “and aren’t pregnant” in this description. Given than most women of childbearing age aren’t pregnant, that’s a significant distinction but hardly one than changes my point.


My daughter drank unpasturized milk for nearly two years. But that was breastmilk so I can assure you it was very safe.


I never realized that my parents were trying to kill me with all that fresh raw milk (from our own cows) they forced on me as a child.