There are few issues in the beverage world as controversial as the debate over the distribution and availability of raw milk. People want it but the government won’t let them have it.
Commercially available milk is heavily processed before it reaches your local supermarket, namely it’s been homogenized and pasteurized. Some people claim that this virtually destroys milk’s natural nutritive properties and may even make milk harmful for human consumption.
The culprit is mainly the pasteurization. By exposing milk to such high heat, bacteria may be killed but some say that many of the enzymes and other components are destroyed as well. Many people insist that the ultra-sterile conditions of modern dairies has eliminated the need for the extra step of pasteurization. The FDA claims it is still necessary to maintain health standards. Besides the health issues, pasteurized milk has a longer shelf life, which makes economic sense for large commercial dairies.
The legal status of raw milk varies from state to state in the US, and around Canada as well. Some states have outlawed raw milk entirely, some have simply banned its sale but not consumption, and it is completely legal in states like California. One loophole in the regulations, is that farmers are allowed to drink the raw milk from their own cows.
So some have taken advantage of that fact, and offer “shares” in their cows to customers. By being a part-owner in a cow, people are technically drinking their own milk and are not subject to the various laws. Some states have begun cracking down on these plans as well. Supporters of raw milk are trying to get these laws changed.
Why this harsh treatment of raw milk? Well, the FDA has deemed it unsafe and contends that there is a long list of potential bacterial contaminants that could be present in raw milk. There have been many recorded outbreaks originating from the drinking of raw milk which is why the FDA is refusing to change it’s position on the issue. Unfortunately, the benefits of raw milk that people have reported are considered only anecdotal.
I am not a food scientist, or nutritionist of any sort, and do not have any qualifications regarding this issue. But my personal opinion is that people should have the right to make their own decisions, and if they wish to possibly take risks with raw milk, then they should be able to do so. There have been contamination outbreaks in all kinds of food products over the decades. I don’t see anyone outlawing packaged spinach even though people died after an E.coli outbreak with that product.