Friday, May 21, 2010

To pasteurize or not? (yes)

It is a long time off but I am starting to think about whether or not we should pasteurize the milk that we get from our goats. The literature out there is highly conflicting. I will have a lot of time to think about it, as our goats probably won't come into heat until fall.

By the way, anyone in the Clackamas County area have stud service for full size goats? I would preferrably like to breed them to Lamancha.

Considering that I have a two year old that I will be feeding, the question is really important to me. I really want to make the right decision and yet it seems there is no clear cut answer.

On the one hand, you have plenty of raw milk advocates out there that feel that pasteurizing kills off many nutritional aspects of the milk, such as this article:

There are many articles written on the internet that tout the same information. If I dig a little deeper into the sources, it seems that this information is all based off of the Weston Price Foundation, which is based on the dentist Doctor Price, who travelled the world early last century attempting to find the answers to Western diseases. He found that the societies who eat the least amount of processed and refined foods (especially sugar) are the least healthy.

Here is what the Weston Price website has to say about the subject of pasteurization:

Pasteurization is a process of heat treating milk to kill bacteria. Although Louis Pasteur developed this technique for preserving beer and wine, he was not responsible for applying it to milk. That was done at the end of the 1800s as a temporary solution until filthy urban dairies could find a way to produce cleaner milk. But instead of cleaning up milk production, dairies used pasteurization as a way to cover up dirty milk. As milk became more mass produced, pasteurization became necessary for large dairies to increase their the profits. So the public then had to be convinced that pasteurized milk was safer than raw milk. Soon raw milk consumption was blamed for all sorts of diseases and outbreaks until public was finally convinced that pasteurized milk was superior to milk in its natural state.

Today if you mention raw milk, many people gasp and utter ridiculous statements like, You can die from drinking raw milk!" But the truth is that there are far more risks from drinking pasteurized milk than unpasteurized milk. Raw milk naturally contains healthy bacteria that inhibit the growth of undesirable and dangerous organisms. Without these friendly bacteria, pasteurized milk is more susceptible to contamination. Furthermore, modern equipment, such as milking machines, stainless steel tanks and refrigerated trucks, make it entirely possible to bring clean, raw milk to the market anywhere in the US.

Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaksdown fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)

We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium."

Alarming, don't you think? But what is the evidence to back up all of these outrageous claims? Scrolling down to the bottom of the page, I see no sources listed on this topic.

And so through wikipedia I found the first 21 of 28 chapters of Doctor Price's book. I searched and found nothing on the subject of pasteurization. I looked up the remaining chapters on Amazon, and the titles of each chapters appear to not address the subject of pasteurization.

So, again, where is the evidence to back up the claim that pasteurized milk is inferior? I decided to look through Sally Fallon's book again, which is supposed to be based on the work of Doctor Price. I reread the chapter that talks up the virtues of raw milk and checked all of her references. Her reference list looks very pretty, but if you check closely there is not one reference to any nutritional study or experiment to back up her claims. (I've since decided to return the book)

And then I went back to the Price website. They run an additional website called "" and so I decided to check out the references. I did find a list of references regarding "raw" milk, but they are all studies that appear to talk about the virtues of human breast milk versus cow milk, and they were all written near the 1930's.

So I decided to call the phone number on the website. A gentleman actually answered the phone which was surprising. I asked him where to find literature regarding Weston Price's findings of the nutritional superiority of raw milk. He said that there really isn't anything written by him as the idea wasn't popular at the time that he wrote his book.

Very strange. So the Weston Price foundation is attempting to convince people that raw milk is the way go, but Weston Price didn't focus his concerns on raw cow or goat milk. The above paragraphs appear to be written in the voice of Weston Price, but they were not. The exacty author is unknown.

So I asked him again where the references are. He said that there is a power point presentation that lists the studies and references.

I hung up and downloaded the power point. The first reference I decided to check was another study pointing to the virtues of breast milk but had nothing to do with raw cow or goats milk. I decided to check another reference but the article wouldn't load on my computer. The page was expired.

At this point I am annoyed and frustrated as it appears to be a load of bullshit.

And a couple of days ago I stumbled on Bill Marler's blog, the most prominent food poisening attorney in the United States. The videos of the children who have died from drinking raw goat milk have me completely convinced of the need for pasteurization. I've decided not to do any further research.

Another tidbit:

I'm reading a book right now called Soap and Water and Common Sense by an epidemiologist Dr. Bonnie Henry. I'm hoping that she can answer many of the questions that I have lurking in my brain about food safety... such as: How does an egg yolk become contaminated? How does e-coli survive on the surface of lettuce and spinach? Does the fact that spinach and peppers and tomatoes are contaminated with e-coli simply mean that they haven't been washed? Won't soaking grains before eating them (a new recommendation by health foodies) massively increase the risk of food poisening (especially by Bacillus cereus, a spore forming organism that is often found in cereal grains)?

Anyway, I have yet to find answers to those questions, but there is one particular fact I have learned that has shed some light on the raw milk debate. E-coli was thought of before the 80's as a perfectly benign organism. In fact the Jack in the Box food poisenings in the 90's was what brought the extremely nasty bug e-coli 0157:H7 into the spotlight.

I suppose that one reason that the organism was thought to be completely benign is that the bacteria doesn't cause illness in cows or goats. They can be carrying/shedding the bacteria at any time without showing any sign of illness.

She points out that when all of this so-called research Doctor Price had performed (which I failed to find and doubt there ever was any), it was before the discovery of this organism (the same organism that killed the children in the videos) and that the organization must have forgot about all of the diseases that have been averted by pasteurizing the milk.

One other thought. If pasteurized cow and goat milk is so dangerous for you (as the raw milk advocates claim) does that also mean that yogurt is bad for you? Because yogurt is heated to a higher degree than pasteurization does before it is incubated.

Okay, I'm done discussing the issue. Now I need to search for some equipment to actually perform the pasteurizing. I know that seems silly, but milk is ridiculously hard to heat without burning the hell out of the bottom of the milk. I've discovered this many times by making yogurt, ricotta or a bechamel. If anyone has any tips for me on this subject, it would be greatly appreciated.


Laura said...

Well I'm about 2-3 weeks from this decision and doing this research was on the to do list. Thanks for doing it for me!

Now to figure out the how (without burning).

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

This is probably the most expensive but effective option:

Unknown said...

Thanks for stopping by Homestead Revival and weighing in on the raw milk v. pasteurization debate. I am fine with comments from both sides of the issue because I believe each person needs to make their own decision (not the government doing it for us).

If you understand the history of why we abandoned raw milk in the first place, it sheds a lot of light on the subject. There was a period at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution where I would have agreed with you that it was necessary unless you lived on a farm and drank your own milk. On the other hand, people have consumed raw milk for centuries. And yes, some have gotten sick and died. Just like some have died from peanut butter that is contaminated, spinach with e.coli, and even lettuce. The culprit is NOT the raw milk, but rather the standard of cleanliness.

While some feel the need to use an anti-bacterial soap for everything, others feel that just a regular soap is fine. Pasteurization is the equivalent of anti-bacterial soap. It gives the highest protection. Each person needs to do what he or she is comfortable with. There is no doubt in my own mind that heating milk to certain temperatures kills the good along with the bad. However, my comfort level allows me to consume it. And yes, heating yogurt kills a lot of the good stuff, too, so I only heat my raw milk to 110 degrees when making yogurt.

A healthy debate on the topic is very beneficial for individuals to be informed about the choices that they make. But I find it highly offensive when my government wants to play nanny and keep me from making my own decision. That is a loss of my personal freedoms and unAmerican.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I agree, people should be allowed to purchase raw milk should they want to and if there is plenty of information to keep the public well informed.

I respectfully disagree that raw milk and produce are similar scenarios. Contaminated produce is most definetely a cleanliness issue, and the simplest way to protect yourself is to wash the lettuce or the spinach prior to eating it.

But you cannot simply wash milk to remove bacteria. I do slightly disagree that the level of cleanliness will determine the safety of the milk even though safety measures will reduce infection possibility.

We all know that bacteria is present on skin. But it is particularly prevalent in the milk ducts, as this is a warm moist protein rich environment. Its presence on the animal doesn't tend to cause problems for the animals unless they happen to have a plugged duct or some other lesion to cause mastitis.

And considering the proximity of the teats to the intestines of the animal... I don't think there is any possibility of completely keeping fecal material out of the milk. Especially considering that most people filter all the hair and bits that fly into the milk after the animal has been milked (I milk directly through a filter).

I find it questionable that many folks are being encouraged to buy raw milk from farms. I think the only way to make sure that all safety measures have been taken is own the animal and perform milking tasks yourself, especially if feeding children are involved.

Or, at the very least, the consumer should be armed with questions to verify that the utmost safety procedures are being performed. Verifying that the animals are being milked in sanitary conditions, filtering, milk cooling as fast as possible... e-coli can reproduce every 20 minutes and still reproduces in the refrigerator.

DangAndBlast! said...

Was discussing this with my husband (a doctor) the other day. I used to live in Germany, where they do the ultra-high-temperature pasteurization (and you keep your milk in a box in the cupboard until you open it) -- apparently, that kind of pasteurization really does damage the nutritional value to some extent. (Our way - much lower temperatures, much more spoilable milk - not so much.) But from the stories he's told me of listeriosis, and all the pregnant women dying or miscarrying (much more risk if you're pregnant, you're a small child, etc. - not nearly so dangerous if you're a healthy adult male)... yeah, totally not worth the risk. (I know, I know, as they told us at the farmer's market, it's all a government conspiracy run by Monsanto who controls the FDA and all reports of disease are fakes or whatever... yeah.)

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

It is unfortunate that the pasteurization thing is seen as a conspiracy. I figure better safe than sorry!