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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Raw Milk: The Bad

The following is part 3 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Dale

Bukhara, Uzbekistan. It started with mild discomfort through the night – Mr. Stomach letting the taste buds know that a mistake had been made. Mr. Brain hoped for a quick resolution to the problem. But this was not to be. The digestive system armies of good organisms were slowly being overwhelmed by the legions of evil food borne pathogens.
The next morning I was on a dairy farm outside Bukhara. When I realized that things were only going to get worse, I excused myself and asked my driver to take me back to the hotel. It amazed me how a mild skirmish in my stomach escalated into a full fledged war. As the miles ticked off and I was getting sicker, I rolled down the car window in anticipation of an eruption. Through prayer and perseverance I held it off until I reached the hotel. I ran to the front desk, grabbed my key and charged up to my room. I barely got into the bathroom and dropped to my knees before I exploded into the toilet.
When it was over I grabbed the bathtub to support myself and then drug myself to the bed. For the next six hours, each end of my digestive system competed to see who could create the biggest detonation, reminiscent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am sure that the blasts were so loud that everyone else in the hotel was saying “That is one sick American.” At one point I thought “I am going out to throw myself over my seventh floor balcony into the court yard below” But then I remembered my family waiting for me back at home.
What was the culprit? Most likely the unpasteurized dairy products I had eaten on a dairy farm I had visited the day before. Does this happen in the United States? Yes. Every year a few people get sick from drinking raw milk. Raw milk is risky. On a cow, the udder and teats are downhill from the anus and the tail is the path between them. Farmers do a great job keeping the cows, the barn, and the milking parlor clean. But just as the old bumper sticker says “S_ _ _ Happens”. And eventually some particles are going to get into the milk, not to mention other naturally occurring pathogens. And that is why milk is pasteurized.
Does my experience in Uzbekistan keep me from drinking raw milk? No. The farmers I get raw milk from are very particular about cleanliness. Am I still at risk? Yes, but the risk is very small. Will I ever quit drinking it? Yes, when my immune system is compromised by disease or old age. Do I discourage others from drinking it? Yes - young children, the elderly, and those with deficient immune systems. I would encourage anyone who starts drinking raw milk to go slowly and allow your body to condition itself. And remember, there is a risk and this is the BAD side of raw milk.
Next in this series – I will discuss the “Ugly” of raw milk, that is, the battle over legalizing it.
On a dairy farm in Uzbekistan



Dale emphasizing a fundament principle – keep feed in front of cows all the time to improve milk production.



Teaching dairy economics to a group of dairy farmers.

5 comments:

Michelle said...

I don't know if I have the 'guts' to drink raw milk but I do plan to use it to make aged cheeses someday. Glad you are feeling better and didn't throw yourself over the balcony!

Bethany said...

Hi, thanks for this post. But I also wanted to mention that the Medical Milk Commission, set up in the late 1800's originally was designed to test milk for cleanliness. The campaign for clean milk worked and problems declined. It doesn't have to be risky raw milk or pasteurized milk. We can also test milk for bacteria, and should.

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

Dale, I've had food poisoning before and it is NO piece of cake! Mine came from a spinach salad with bacon dressing that tasted rancid (I should have stopped eating it right when I noticed the strange taste!).

I'm curious though... Did the farmer and natives that consumed the same milk get sick, too? I'm assuming they drank this same milk on a regular basis. If they drank it and did NOT get sick, could it be that their intestinal track had built up more of the "good bacteria" and therefore were able to fight off the "bad"?

Dale Johnson said...

Amy,

You raise an interesting question. My American coworker got sick but not near as sick as I got. I doubt that the "natives" got very sick. So I think conditioning plays a roll. However, as sick as I got, I believe that I got a bigger or more potent dose of pathogens than my coworker or the natives. How might this happen? A small flake of manure gets into the milk. It doesn't dissolve and get diluted into the milk. A few pathogens may migrate into the milk. But I happen to get the flake in my milk where the pathogens are concentrated. So I get sicker than anyone else.

Dale Johnson said...

Amy,

You raise an interesting question. My American coworker got sick but not near as sick as I got. I doubt that the "natives" got very sick. So I think conditioning plays a roll. However, as sick as I got, I believe that I got a bigger or more potent dose of pathogens than my coworker or the natives. How might this happen? A small flake of manure gets into the milk. It doesn't dissolve and get diluted into the milk. A few pathogens may migrate into the milk. But I happen to get the flake in my milk where the pathogens are concentrated. So I get sicker than anyone else.