Got Any Pathogen Free Milk?

Way back in 1991 my college friends and I drove to Washington DC (a typical college roadtrip). I was not quite a food scientist yet but I knew that Washington was where the F.D. A. lived and it was an important organization that I would probably need to know more about in my future. I walked for miles trying to find the building, found it, walked in the lobby-and realizing that it was mostly just offices –left. It was one of those zen food science moments and the only thing I remember about that trip.

For years I never had a reason to question the FDA or doubt anything they said about food.  They told me how to label products, they told me what claims I could and could not use on my labels and they confused the heck out of me with their vague instructions on filling out form 2541A   the FDA food process file for all methods except low acid aseptic!

Which is why I am so conflicted after attending a “Share the Secret” presentation on raw milk dairy products, presented by Mark McAfee, founder of Organic Pasture Dairy Co . Mark made quite a few convincing claims about raw milk and the FDA and the food industry in general that contradict what my text books, university professors, and food science friends say, but actually resonated quite well with my organic free range happy cow loving non food science friends that I hang out with at the farmers market with every weekend.

Here are a few “facts” that Mark McAffee presented to a seemlingly organic audience (little did he know that the non rule breaking food microbiologist/intrepid Culinologist was hiding in the audience!)

  1. We are bacterio sapiens-We have more bacteria in our body than genetically human cells. We have to feed and nourish these protective colonies of good bacteria.. Modern medicine has depleted our beneficial bacteria colonies resulting in immune depression.
  2. The FDA is sterilization happy. They have turned us into germaphobes, and their efforts have resulted in all of us having weak depressed immune systems.
  3. He vaguely implied that Nestle seems to own the FDA and plays a role in their raw milk rules and regulations.
  4. Lactose Intolerance should be renamed “pasteurization intolerance” because the lactase enzyme that is created by the beneficial bacteria that should be in our body, is not always there-however, drinking raw milk will allow the good bacteria to re-colonize our system, produce lactase enzymes and allow lactose intolerant people to drink milk once again.
  5. Organic Pastures Milk is safe. Mike spends over $2000 dollars a month on mandatory testing that only applies to raw milk sold for human consumption. The results of the raw milk testing must pass the same bacteria count standards that are required of pasteurized milk.
  6. To date, not one pathogen has ever been detected in raw milk!

Marks 400 + cows live on a 585 acre farm grazing on forever green grass and are never given antibiotics, hormones or GMO’s. When one of the seminar attendees asked “what do you do if a cow gets sick” Mark replied “we just let it die… naturally”.

Always the skeptical “I have to defend my field and the FDA and my whole career” food scientist I did alittle reading to see what my *text book peeps had to say.

* Microorganisms in Food 6, 1998 Blackie Academic and Professional

  1. Raw milk receives no processing, thus there is no opportunity to reduce potential health hazards. Refrigeration prolongs shelf life but does not eliminate the hazard.
  2. Refrigeration of raw milk can slow down spoilage growth, but encourages  psychotrophic (cold loving bacteria) growth-which has rancid, malty, yeasty, bitter fruity flavor producing enzymes
  3. Consumption of raw milk was the cause many of milk-born disease outbreaks in the 1930’s, including typhoid fever, salmonellosis, septic sore throats, tuberculosis and diphtheria. Pasteurization decreased these outbreaks dramatically.
  4. Listeria, Campylobacteriosis, Yersinia Enterocolitica, Escherichia coli, Staph aureus and assorted viruses have all been isolated from raw milk.

(however, Mark will be happy that my food microbiology text confirmed that a 1987 study showed that the percent  Listeria isolated from raw milk across the U.S. was around 4.2%, none were isolated from Californian samples!)

My textbook concluded that raw milk can and often will be contaminated with pathogens, even from certified “pathogen free” herds.

Is it possible for small highly controlled dairy farms to produce safe raw milk for human consumption, probably yes, but the measures are strict and expensive.

  1. Animals must be healthy, and fed pathogen free feed
  2. Regular cow screening of milk from individual quarters of the udder and proper antiobiotic therapy
  3. Regular cleaning of tail, udder and all equipment surfaces that come in contact with milk before milking
  4. Fresh drawn milk should be chilled immediately to slow microbial growth
  5. A very sanitary personnel staff
  6. A strictly enforced HACCP program

Organic Pastures Farm (San Juaquin Valley, CA) does follow the utmost extreme sanitation and safety practices, and because of this, you can buy their milk at Whole Foods and other natural stores in California for the low price of $9 dollars per half gallon. The benefits of drinking raw milk (AKA a “living food”) are endless. Strengthened immune system, elimination of lactose intolerance and ear ache free children.  Cheaper than medicine, it can (according to Mark) reduce your health care bill and provide you and your children with strong immune systems!

BUT even Mark cannot guarantee pathogen free milk. He states in his literature “We have never detected a pathogen in our raw milk, although we cannot guarantee this will continue forever, we can guarantee that if you consume bio-diverse living raw milk your immune system will be stronger than ever…

I cautiously drank a glass of raw milk during the seminar and it was pretty tasty. I admit, I liked the idea of healthy gut improving microbes taking over my immune system. I felt fine the next day, no side effects at all.

I am tempted to do an experiment-start drinking one glass of raw milk a day, see how my overall feeling of well being changes. Anyone care to join me?

There are no guarantees that you won’t get the glass with the pathogen in it!

About rachel zemser

2 Responses to “We are all Bacterio Sapians-Whats in your Immune system?”

  1. Erin

    I wish more people thought this way, pasteurized dairy products make me sick. Thanks goodness for keifer. While I am all for strict sanitary rules, the FDA goes too far when it comes to regulating the actual food and not far enough when it comes to things like living/growing conditions and cleanliness. It is incredibly frustrating.

  2. Steve

    I will gladly try your raw-milk experiment. But I think I’d first want to visit the local farm where it’s made. If my milk’s going to be unpasteurized, I want to see the teats it’s coming from.

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