Nina Planck at Huffington Post Twitter icon Facebook icon RSS icon

Ban Pasteurized Milk

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I’m only kidding.

But there is a double standard here.

When raw milk is implicated in illness, government regulators and the industrial-food apologist industry go nuts about banning it.

When pasteurized milk kills people, it’s a matter of routine food safety procedures. Shut down the dairy, do some testing, re-open with safety measures in place. No recall of industrial milk. No slide shows about how pasteurized milk can kill you.

Of course it can. Any food containing any lethal pathogen can kill you.

In December 2007, pasteurized milk contaminated with Listeria killed three people—four, if you count the baby of the woman in her 30s who had a miscarriage. (My sympathies to the owners and operators of the Boston-area dairy, an old-fashioned, glass-bottle operation, and the families of those who died.) Whenever this happens, the food safety people say the same thing (I paraphrase): ‘There are many more cases of Listeria (or choose your pathogen) illness than people report.’ In other words, people are getting sick from food-borne illness all the time. You just don’t hear about it.

Face it: foods have risks. Correction: all foods have risks. Correction: all activities have risks, including touching door knobs. Along with other folks at a food conference in November, we all got the norovirus in November. Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness: it was a misery for Rob, Julian, and me. Did it travel on food? We don’t know. The vicious noro travels in the air, the water, in diapers, on surfaces, on food.

It’s a fact that Listeria is found in pasteurized cheeses. E. coli is found in washed and packaged spinach. Salmonella is found on chickens that come out of industrial plants which tend to use precautions like bleaching. (I mean bleaching the chicken you eat.) Doctors can tell you when you’ve got an infection caused by the hospital itself because the bacteria will be resistant to antibiotics used only in hospitals. Talk about iatrogenic illness.

Traditional foods, and traditional medicine, have risks, too. It’s a pity the discussion about both is not more objective. I don’t believe the FDA plays fair with traditional foods.

Speaking of E. coli, remember my NYT op-ed explaining that grain-fed cattle shed dangerous E. coli? It has had a long life on the web, where debate rages about the cause of the E. coli in the California spinach.

I keep hearing from some gadfly blogger who (like me) is in favor of Americans having accurate information about food safety and (also like me) having freedom of choice about what to eat. He’s been posting all over about E. coli and grass-fed cows.

Let’s be clear. There is E. coli in the poop of grass-fed cows, as there is in the poop of all healthy ruminants. Heck, there’s E. coli in yours, too. That’s why you see the signs saying NOW WASH YOUR HANDS. If someone is careless and you happen to ingest it, your stomach acid is usually strong enough to destroy it before it makes you sick.

There is MUCH more E. coli O157, the dangerous kind that is more likely to make humans sick, in the manure of grain-fed cows. That is because this more recent strain of E. coli, O157, has bred itself silly in the highly acid stomachs of grain-fed cows. We created it by mis-feeding animals.

Eat a traditional diet. And if you eat animals, eat the ones who ate THEIR traditional diet. For cows, that’s grass and hay and weeds and the occasional seed head. If you don’t eat animals, at least eat eggs or milk. And find chickens and cows who ate a traditional diet, or the best version of it possible.

Finally, on this bitterly cold January day in New York, a snippet from Real Baby Food:

Canadian researchers gave nursing mothers two extra eggs to eat daily. The eggs were omega-3 enriched, from chickens fed flax seed. The breast milk of the women who ate the enhanced eggs contained substantially more long-chain fatty acids, the kind your baby needs to build his eyes and brain. Eggs from hens raised on fresh green grass and bugs (in addition to the corn and oyster shell and other nutrients they need) are best. But if you can’t find them, buy the omega-3-enriched eggs: they work!

By the way, after eating 14 eggs a week for six weeks, the women showed no changes in blood cholesterol or triglycerides. Do ignore outdated advice to limit egg consumption. Eggs are a perfect protein, rich in B vitamins and healthy fats, and the ultimate convenience food. We’ve known since 1999 that people who eat MORE eggs have LESS heart disease.

Now I’ve given you one easy New Year’s Resolution: more scrambled eggs.

Maybe with Cheddar.

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