Dairy debate


Buckeye Farm News 

An Ohio State University scientist argues in a new peer-reviewed article that, even with modern testing methods, drinking unpasteurized milk carries serious risks.

In the journal Clinical and Infectious Diseases, Jeff LeJeune, a microbiologist and veterinary researcher at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, further states that raw milk does not offer the nutritional and curative properties that its proponents claim.

“Scientific evidence to substantiate the assertions of the health benefits of unpasteurized milk is generally lacking,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, when the public is presented with a large body of conflicting information, their decision-making process does not always yield the same results as that of experts.”

Raw milk supporters say unpasteurized products contain more nutrients, ease lactose intolerance and prevent and cure diseases. LeJeune counters that milk’s nutrition is unaffected by pasteurization, which destroys harmful pathogens.

In Ohio, raw milk can only be consumed by the owner of the animal that produces it. The Ohio Department of Agriculture gained attention in recent years for prosecuting farmers suspected of selling raw milk. Thus, some farms have sold shares of their herd to customers, arguing this meets the ownership requirement.

Farm Bureau members have debated the issue at length, finally settling on policy that opposes “the sale of raw milk directly to consumers without proper regulations in place to ensure the highest level of food safety.” During policy debates, members have expressed concerns about consumer health and said illness linked to milk of any sort would damage the dairy industry’s image.

LeJeune writes that testing for pathogens can’t ensure safety because contamination is sporadic and infectious in extremely small amounts. Even after testing, undetectable organisms could grow to unacceptable levels, he notes.

But Farm Bureau members have also been wary of shutting dairy farmers off from new financial opportunities and limiting consumer choice. Last month, the Dayton Daily News reported that, although a secretive business, raw milk continues to grow in popularity among consumers from a wide range of backgrounds. One farmer said he could earn three to four times more for a gallon of unpasteurized milk.


Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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