retail news in context, analysis with attitude has a piece about the continuing debate over the health benefits of raw milk, which also, inevitably, turns into a debate about whether pasteurization is valuable process.

“Worshippers at the milk shrine - to indulge in yet more hyperbole - stand before only one image of that perfect food,” Slate writes. “It's golden, creamy, foamy, fresh from grass-fed, family-farm cows. It doesn't cause but cures illness. Raw milk, with its legion of followers, has become a poster child of the food rights movement, giving emotional power to the idea that all of us deserve access to untainted, unprocessed, healthy food.

“And it's in this incarnation - the one that draws a cult-like following - that the raw-milk ideal becomes dangerous. They're not alone, of course; pure-food advocates in general tend to cast a romanticized glow over their favored products. We hear that old-fashioned organic produce contains more nutrients than that grown by modern agriculture, despite the fact that most research suggests that, basically, a carrot is a carrot and one spinach leaf is pretty much another (and all lose nutrients as they sit on a shelf). We hear that we should return to old-fashioned farming methods, advice that ignores the key fact that such techniques are so inefficient that they can't sustain the world's current population. There's an element of wishful thinking to many food mythologies, but - unlike the haloed status of raw milk - most don't lead directly to risky behavior or public health concerns or physicians complaining that increased consumption of ‘nature's perfect food’ has led to a recent doubling in the number of milk-borne disease outbreaks.”

Slate goes on: “Today, just about 0.5 percent of all the milk consumed in this country is unpasteurized. Yet from 1998 to 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of 85 infectious disease outbreaks linked to raw milk. In the past few months, physicians have treated salmonella in Utah, brucellosis in Delaware, campylobacter in Colorado and Pennsylvania, and an ugly outbreak of E. coli O157-H7 in Minnesota, which sickened eight people in June. Epidemiologists not only identified a rare strain of the bacteria but matched its DNA to those stricken, the cows on the farm that supplied them with raw milk, and manure smearing the milking equipment and even the animals themselves. When regulators shut down the dairy farm, supporters promptly charged them with belonging to a government conspiracy to smear the reputation of a hallowed food ... Raw-milk and other pure food obsessives are in love with a past that never really existed. The golden, creamy milk of those 19th-century farms killed people, often enough that public health crusaders fought for years for the protection of pasteurization ... And the pure-food, raw-milk, farms-of-our-forefathers movement would be so much more impressive—and appear so much more concerned for others—if it would trade some of its inspirational rhetoric for something I like to call healthy reality.”
KC's View:
Clearly, Slate has a point of view on this one ... and I won’t kid myself that people who are in favor of raw milk consumption can’t be just as passionate and/or persuasive.

That said - and I felt this way before I read the Slate piece - there is no way I’d drink unpasteurized milk, nor would I feed it to my children. No way. And I worry a little about a world in which some people demonize clear scientific advancements like pasteurization, and say things like “the bacteria theory is a total myth.” (Pasteurization essentially kills the bacteria and microorganisms that exist in raw milk and that killed enormous numbers of children before it became commonplace; the “myth” line is attributed to a Wisconsin raw milk advocate named Max Kane.)

I’m sure that some raw milk may have some benefits. But that’s a roll of the dice I’m not eager to make.