For thousands of years, people lived in an agrarian society and drank raw milk. But as society became industrialized, dairy farms became crowded and unsanitary. Milk was becoming infected because of cow feces coming in contact with it, dirty processing equipment, and rodents in the milk-processing facilities. Louis Pasteur discovered that contamination causes germs that lead to disease. His invention of the process for pasteurizing milk, which involves heating the milk to kill germs, prevented people from getting diseases such as scarlet fever, tuberculosis and typhoid fever. The pasteurization process that started to take hold in the U.S. in the 1920s, however, is not perfect, and some health problems have been associated with the process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12 outbreaks of salmonella associated with the milk pasteurization process between 1960 and 2000. Seven were because of contamination after pasteurization, and five were because of salmonella due to inadequate pasteurization. The CDC said that more cases of contaminated milk could have occurred but were not reported. In 2000, the Pennsylvania State Department of Health contacted the CDC about a possible salmonella outbreak. The CDC, along with the Food and Drug Administration, conducted an investigation and found violations of sanitary standards at the dairy.
PROBLEMS AFTER PASTEURIZATION
The FDA determined that the Pennsylvania plant violated sanitary standards and contaminated the milk after it was pasteurized. The high humidity level in the plant caused condensation that dripped into the open milk containers. Also, several machines leaked raw milk onto the floor, and skim milk was not held at the correct temperature.
LOSS OF NUTRIENTS
Heating milk to kill dangerous bacteria also destroys essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes, including vitamin C and thiamine. Nutritional scientist Aajonus Vonderplanitz and retired raw dairy farmer Carlet Hoff, in an article on RawMilk.org, say that pasteurizing milk weakens people and animals. They claim that by removing nutrients from milk through pasteurization, you are taking away antibodies responsible for preventing diseases, including cancer.
"With pasteurization," Vonderplanitz and Hoff say, "milk contaminated with bovine fecal matter and bovine disease could be sold as long as it had been pasteurized." They compare this process to buying a repaired car that had once been in an accident. The wrecked car is not going to run as well as the same car that has not been in an accident. Raw milk advocates argue that if the production process is clean, raw milk is superior to pasteurized milk because the enzymes and beneficial bacteria in milk -- which help prevent asthma, allergies, skin problems, urinary tract problems and kidney disease -- are lost during the pasteurization process. However, the CDC and the FDA recommend against drinking raw milk and encourage drinking pasteurized milk instead.