Raw-milk advocates strongly insist that raw milk is healthier and tastes better, although they don’t recommend it for your skin. Taste is subjective, but healthier… not so much. That didn’t stop West Virginia legislators from legalizing raw milk to be sold in their states, and partaking of a big glass to celebrate. And now, suddenly, they’re all sick!
In what local lawmakers are insisting must be a big old coincidence, there’s a stomach-bug outbreak at the West Virginia Statehouse. One of the most ill, Pat McGeehan, insists he just has a virus:
Several lawmakers say a delegate who sponsored the bill, Scott Cadle (R – Mason, 13), brought in the drinks. “[Cadle] caught me in the hallway, offered a cup to me, and you want to try to be a gentleman,” McGeehan said. “I had a small sip and walked away and tossed the rest of it. I highly doubt raw milk had anything to do with it, in my case. I don’t think it’s any riskier than eating raw oysters or anything like that,” McGeehan said. McGeehan believes the milk you drink is a personal choice.
Which it is. It’s odd how nobody seems to think personal choices may not have consequences, though. Oh, by the way, if you were wondering, eating raw oysters can be a crapshoot, too.
One thing the raw-milk movement has never quite been able to elide around is the fact that raw milk can contain a lot of terrifying pathogens, ranging from the nastier strains of e. coli to campylobacter and salmonella to tuberculosis. What keeps these out of regular milk? Heat! Thanks to Louis Pasteur, we know that quickly heating milk and cooling it before it curdles will bump off the majority of the nastier bugs.
Most of the claims around raw milk say it somehow prevents allergies, but those claims come from studies comparing kids who live on farms, with all the attendant dirt, muck, and poop for their systems to fight off, with kids living in relatively clean urban areas. There’s never been a controlled study of raw milk because most scientists think it’s hugely dangerous and unethical to expose people to foodborne illnesses in the name of science! While it is perhaps possible that being constantly sickened by the food you consume may, in the long term, prevent allergies, it’s probably not worth the risk of death.
Similarly, the claims that raw milk has “good bacteria” doesn’t give it a free pass; it’s pretty easy to find healthy bacteria elsewhere in your diet. Miso, yogurt, kefir and fermented pickles like sauerkraut, for example, are great sources of bacteria your body likes and not a source of running to the bathroom every five seconds.
Taste is subjective, and, of course, in the end, people have a right to decide what goes in their bodies. That said, though, perhaps consider the plight of Pat McGeehan before you have a glass straight from the cow.