Sour Attitudes on Raw Milk

In a letter to the Washington Post over this past weekend, a “food safety consultant” in northern Virginia named Thomas L. Schwarz lambastes the Post for a documentary movie review that “trivialized the 15 or more potentially deadly organisms that can be found in raw milk.”

Among other topics, the movie “Farmageddon” raises questions about the appropriateness of our federal government spending many millions of taxpayer dollars cracking down on small farmers who dare to sell a product that consumers want and are willing to pay for. The movie, while high on emotionalism, is rather light on accuracy. But it does make an important point about heavy-handed government getting between willing buyers and sellers.

Admittedly, most of of the consumers of raw milk are unwilling to acknowledge the risks associated with consuming raw milk — but that’s not because the information is unavailable. It is unfortunate that so many raw milk advocates are unwilling to face facts.  After all, pasteurization was seen as a remarkable scientific breakthrough and public health miracle for a reason: raw milk can harbor any number of nasty bacteria — including S. typhimurium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Brucella.

That said, there’s no good reason why consenting adults should not be able to buy and consume raw milk.

That’s why it irked me so much when Mr. Schwartz, the Post‘s correspondent, wrote that “Filmmaker Kristin Canty has a lot of gall to substitute her beliefs for the scientific expertise of food safety experts and disregard the deadly historical record of raw milk and raw milk products.” On the contrary, Mr. Schwartz, it is you who have a lot of gall to substitute your choice for that of others.