Drink your milk and say your prayers? Yes, if it’s raw milk

Drinking your milk, eating your vitamins, and saying your prayers is the trifecta of being a real American. But the Hulkster never said the milk had to be raw. As a matter of fact, and contrary to what many people believe, raw milk is not healthier than pasteurized milk. It does not carry ‘good’ bacteria – you’re thinking about probiotic bacteria that are sometimes added to already pasteurized, fermented foods like yogurt and kefir. What raw milk does carry are harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and all sorts of dangerous and even life-threatening germs. And it’s just icky. Would you drink milk straight from the cow’s udder? That would be udderly disgusting, wouldn’t it?

Raw vs. pasteurized milk

To the naked eye, there is no way to tell between raw milk and milk that has been pasteurized; it looks, tastes, and smells exactly the same. The difference is that the latter has gone through the following process:

·         Heating to 161 F for about 15 seconds.

·         Rapid cooling.

·         Sanitary handling.

·         Storage in clean, closed containers at or below 40 F.

A simple enough procedure, but one which can save you a lot of grief later on. The risks of drinking your milk raw range from bouts of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting, to hospital stays due to infections and disease like Guillain-Barré syndrome which can cause kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, stroke, and death (we’re not including intoxication because the milk would have to be sour and you would have to come from the planet Tencton, and what are the odds of that). But why does milk need to be pasteurized in the first place? Because it can become contaminated in a variety of ways, including:

·         Cow feces coming into direct contact with the milk.

·         Infection of the cow's udder (mastitis).

·         Cow diseases (for example, bovine tuberculosis).

·         Bacteria that live on the skin of cows.

·         Environment (such as feces, dirt, processing equipment).

·         Insects, rodents, and other animal vectors.

·         Humans, for example, by cross-contamination from soiled clothing and boots.

·         Germs like Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella can contaminate milk during the process of milking dairy animals, including cows, sheep, and goats. Animals that carry these germs tend to have a healthy appearance.

All of that is why organic and raw milk producers might reduce the risk of milk contamination by practicing good hygiene and implementing humane – or bovine, as the cows themselves might say – conditions, but they could never completely eliminate it. An animal farm is hotbed for disease-carrying germs – and for political strife, if George Orwell is the farmer. So even if the cows are raised in an environment that would not lead them to nickname the farm ‘DaCow,’ the milk would never be 100% safe – even if milk tests come back negative there is still no guarantee that the milk is germ-free.

Maybe you’re thinking, “but I drink raw milk all the time and I’ve never been sick.” Maybe you’re a vigorous fellow; maybe you’re even Chuck Norris. Moreover, as an adult it is your decision whether to drink your milk raw or pasteurized – and Kamadhenu knows that raw milk is legal in some form in at least 30 states. But don’t go thinking you’re doing your children a favor by giving them raw milk to drink. Along with elderly individuals and people with weakened immune systems, children are at an increased risk of getting sick from raw milk - although healthy people of any age can get sick and die as well. And speaking of states that allow the legal sale of raw milk for human consumption, it is no coincidence that most raw milk-related illness outbreaks occur precisely in these states.

Other interesting statistics involving dairy product-associated outbreaks include the following:

·         81% of outbreaks reported to the CDC from 2007 to 2012 were due to raw milk or cheese.

·         59% of those outbreaks included at least one child under 5 years of age.

·         From 2007 through 2012, 81 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk were reported to CDC from 26 states, resulting in 979 illnesses and 73 people hospitalized.

Follow these recommendations to make sure you and your family get the benefits of pasteurized milk – which retains all of the milk’s nutrients – and avoid the risks of raw milk:

·         Buy and consume only milk and milk products labeled as pasteurized.

·         Store pasteurized products at 40°F or below at home.

·         Discard any expired products.

And remember that breast milk – breast pumped or otherwise – is the best food for infants.

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