What is pasteurization?
Weighing the risks and benefits of raw milk
What are the Benefits?
What are the Risks?
Reframing the issue
Local Economies, Small Farms and Consumer Choice
Who is doing the research and who gets to decide?
Decisions and funds
Raw Milk Research
References & Links
Comments & questions to:
Who is doing the research and who decides?
One major problem with much of our farm policy
research is that we do not have unbiased decision makers creating food
policies. Many of those making food policy legislation are closely
invested in its law and therefore have high stakes in the consequences
of food policy. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food
Nation, “for years during the Bush Administration, the chief of staff
at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist to the beef industry in
Washington. The head of the FDA was the former executive vice president
of the national food processors association. These regulatory
agencies are being controlled by the very companies that they’re
supposed to be scrutinizing” (Food Inc, 2009). This conflict of
interest is dangerous; it is very unlikely that these kind of officials
will maintain an unbiased position when casting legislation.
In addition to the policy stakeholders, the
FDA has been criticized for funding biased science and creating biased
information: “Public health might be better served if the FDA could
sponsor research by independent investigators to further its regulatory
decisions, yet congressional agriculture committees consistently deny
requests for such funding…the regulatory agencies themselves also could
help create a more independent environment for their work” (Nestle, p
368, 2002). Industry-funded science is an all-too-common
phenomenon, especially in times of low budgets, when funding tends to
In the context of raw milk research, the FDA
believes that it is essential to pasteurize milk to protect our
society, and claims “research shows no meaningful difference in the
nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk” (FDA,
Yet, other research shows that the loss of nutrients through pasteurization can be significant. A
campaign by the Weston A. Price Foundation, funded to support research of raw milk along with the Farm to Consumer
Legal Defense Fund found dramatically different data on the loss of
nutrients in studies. This data is simply one data set amid many
different studies explained on the foundation’s website.
NUTRIENT DEGRADATION BY PASTEURIZATION:
Raw milk but not pasteurized can resolve scurvy. “. . . Without doubt.
. . the explosive increase in infantile scurvy during the latter part
of the 19th century coincided with the advent of use of heated milks. .
.” (Rajakumar, Pediatrics. 2001;108(4):E76).
Longer and denser bones on raw milk (Studies from Randleigh Farms).
Carrier protein inactivated during pasteurization. (Gregory. J. Nutr. 1982, 1329-1338).
Binding protein inactivated by pasteurization.
Animal studies indicate B6 poorly absorbed from pasteurized milk (Studies from Randleigh Farms).
Beta-lactoglobulin, a heat-sensitive protein in milk, increases
intestinal absorption of vitamin A. Heat degrades vitamin A. Said and
others (Am J Clin Nutr. 1989;49:690-694. Runge and Heger. J Agric Food
Chem. 2000 Jan;48(1):47-55).
Present in milk in protein-bound form, assimilation possibly affected
by pasteurization. Hollis and others ( J Nutr. 1981;111:1240-1248).
Lactoferrin, which contributes to iron assimilation, destroyed during pasteurization.
Lower in pasteurized milk. Wheeler and others (J Dairy Sci. 1983;66(2):187-95).
Lactobacilli, destroyed by pasteurization, enhance mineral absorption (MacDonald and others. 1985).
How do consumers know who to trust? Should
they be able to make decisions based on this conflicting data? It
is important to be critical of governmental decisions in regulation to
determine who is funding the research, and whose interests are at
stake. The FDA is being influenced by large-scale dairy industries,
such as the International Dairy Foods Association, which is highly involved with milk
prices, and closely linked to FDA and USDA policies. IDFA has 220
dairy processing members that run 575 plant operations, and range from
large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together
these 220 members represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured
products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the
United States. By representing the large-scale interests and promoting
anti raw-milk cheese policies, the IDFA supports research that will
ignore the smaller farms who have less political influence and
dramatically different interests.
Independent research needs to be conducted to
augment scientific studies in this field; stakeholders with an interest
in the economic and political outcome of policy cannot be the ultimate
decision makers. Citizens must have the freedom to choose in this
situation, and honest science must exist upon which consumers can base
Because we are all implicated in food issues,
the decision-making process must reflect all of the consumers at
stake. Not only must we ensure consumer knowledge, but we must
take into account the risks of consumers that desire raw milk cheese
and those who do not. If a specific group of consumers wants to
take a slightly higher risk, they should be permitted to do so, just as
long as their decisions do not impact those who do not wish to be
implicated. If another sector of the population has no desire to take
the risk, we must ensure their rights to knowledge about their food
sources, and permit them to opt out, so long as doubt exists about the
safety of raw milk.
Consumers’ decisions are not the only
ones impacted by legislation. Regulations impact farmers,
producers, local economies, corporations, and the environment. “Ethical
issues arise whenever actions that benefit one group harm
another. Food choices have economic, political, social, and
environmental consequences that place improvements to the health of
individuals or populations in conflict with other considerations”
(Nestle, p. 362, 2002). We must weigh these risks against each other
when making decisions, whether about raw milk or other food legislation
We also must take into account the fact
that some of these groups are better represented than others, and that
industry research is much more powerful than small farmers in the
regulation process. It is critical that we ensure that all voices
are heard and taken into account. Large dairy groups, such as the
National Cheese Producers Federation and the National Cheese Institute
hold a remarkable share of power and market share in the dairy
industry, and firmly support the FDA's anti-raw milk policy. The
National Cheese Institute envelopes 85% of the dairy industry.
Smaller farms lack the
power of large institutes, but advocacy groups and
raw cheese proponents such as the American Cheese Society serve the
purpose of promoting these farmers' interests. However,
especially when confronted with legilsative barriers, they often
gain prominence (and funds).
Restricting small farmers’ actions
through regulation can mean
overturning their livelihoods completely, as it is very costly to
reshape a farm to comply with specific legislation. Because food
regulations tend to be catered towards larger farmers, it is critical
to protect small-scale farmers whose entire business may be at risk.
Citizen participation through advocacy and choice is critical;
raw milk cheese farmers rely on consumers to purchase their
products. As many government policies instill fear in the consumer,
farmers struggle to maintain a market, and are less likely to succeed
in gaining legislation.
A plethora of raw milk cheese. The benefits of raw milk cheese are highly contested by researchers.
This kind of
announcement is often avoided in public markets because it is illegal
to proclaim. Raw milk cheese often is sold under facades such as "fish
bait" or "pet food"
Last updated: 5/06/10