Interesting Information: Homogenization of Milk and Cheese

Interesting Information:  June 13, 2011

Homogenization of Milk and Cheese

Steve Bemis is a retired corporate attorney who farms hay in Michigan for local farmers.  He is also a founding Board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund–which works to insure greater access to local foods, especially raw milk.  In the Spring 2011 WAPF journal WISE TRADITIONS, Bemis poses an interesting theory about the real need for homogenization and pasteurization of milk (http://www.realmilk.com/cheese-is-serious.html).  The real reason, poses Bemis, might be the dairy industry’s incredibly profitable cheese business.

Let’s back up for a moment.  In my lifetime, one’s milk was delivered to the door in glass bottles.  One judged the milk by the cream line at the top of the bottle–clearly visible for all to see.  But, the dairy industry wanted that cream to make other products.  Ice cream, yes, but also cheese.

So, industry begin figuring out ways to get that cream.   How they did it was to, first, convince women that milk had to be pasteurized as real milk was unsafe–a claim never proven scientifically.  Second, they instituted, over time, a process of fractionalizing milk into parts and reconstituting some of the parts back into milk–minus all the cream.  (Whole milk might not have the whole amount of cream that came from the cow.)   Says Bemis:  “Milk, milkfat, skim milk powder and other fractions of milk are processed into cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, and other industrial component which are ubiquitous in processed and ultra-processed foods.”  Third, they successfully got the federal government to police this new terrain.  This is how industry works:  maximize profits any way possible, including gaming the information.

Processed, fractionalized milk was then homogenized, so no one could ever see the cream line again.  And, the glass bottles disappeared.  But, here’s where Bemis gets really interesting.  Once milk is homogenized, it “will go rancid within a matter of hours.”  Thus, the milk has to be pasteurized to keep it from going rancid.   “Hence,” writes Bemis, “once the dairy industry took the homogenizing step to follow the dollars, it had to pasteurize.”  Bemis continues:  “And the industry will have to stick with the gospel of pasteurizing, since their current economic structure requires it.”

Hmmmm….  Pasteurization came AFTER homogenization.  Pasteurization was NEVER about food safety.  It was about maximizing profits, fooling customers, and extending shelf life.

So, if you can’t get the whole, raw, living, healthy REAL milk, try to find a dairy that produces a cream line, even if the milk is pasteurized.  Homogenized milk is really, really processed.

Bemis then turns his attention to the cheese issue.  He asks an important question:  “Is contamination of raw milk a huge red herring keeping our eyes off a far more important reason for pasteurizing milk?”  Cheese is a keystone product for the dairy industry.  Cheese is a billion dollar business.  Cheese is probably why both the USDA and the FDA have launched even more intense, fear-based attacks against raw milk and against artisan cheese makers.

The good news, writes Bemis, is that “raw milk consumption continues to surge; FDA’s interstate ban is under legal attack, and FDA’s dogma is regularly being shown to be inconsistent, illogical and unscientific–an embarrassing and ever-deepening quandary in which the agency finds itself due to its steadfast refusal even to hold a dialogue on the subject.”

As for the USDA, one part of it promotes cheese consumption while another part (the new food guide) says its unhealthy.  How’s that for mixed agendas?  It’s time to locate any kind of government recommendations on how to eat somewhere other than the USDA and to put science back into the process.

Tipping Points 7: Betrayal of Our Trust

(You may want to read my essays in order.)

April 26, 2010

Tipping Points 7

Betrayal of Our Trust

  

“You could get undulant fever,” my mother said when I told her a few years ago that I was drinking raw milk, that we could buy it in our local markets in Maine.  “You could get tuberculosis,” said my younger sister who struggles with a severe case of Parkinson’s.  Typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and diphtheria lurk in our national perception of raw milk. 

Ron Schmid in The Untold Story of Milk (2009) describes how at the end of World War II, when “thousands of small farms throughout the country still sold raw milk directly to consumers and through local distribution channels,” a massive campaign to demonize raw milk began.  As Will Allen describes with the chemical industry in The War on Bugs (2008), the campaign was waged in part in popular magazines.  The first salvo of the war against raw milk began in The Ladies Home Journal in 1944 with an article called “Undulant Fever.”  The article claimed—without any documentation—that “tens of thousands of people in the U.S. suffered from fever and illness because of exposure to raw milk.”  In 1945, Coronet published “Raw Milk Can Kill You,” by Harold J. Harris, MD.  Articles in The Progressive and Reader’s Digest followed in 1946 (150). 

Schmid shows that Harris, in his Coronet article, fabricated a town and an epidemic.  Harris located Crossroads, USA, in  “ `one of those states in the Midwest area called the bread basket and milk bowl of America.’ “  Harris claimed  “ `what happened to Crossroads might happen to your town—to your city—might happen almost anywhere in America.’ “  Harris claimed undulant fever struck one out of four people in Crossroads and, “ `despite the efforts of two doctors and the State health department, one out of every four patients died.’ “  Harris later not only admitted his malicious fabrication, but, Schmid writes, other statements he made demonstrated that “he knew such a thing could not possibly happen” (150). 

Undulant fever, or brucellosis, is, Schmid says, an “infectious disease that occurs in cattle and other animals and is transmitted to humans primarily through physical contact.”  Brucellosis is an “occupational hazard for meatpackers, veterinarians, farmers and livestock producers and handlers.”  Milk drinkers risk exposure only if a “grossly infected” animal sheds the organism into the milk.  Actually, nationwide statistics from the U.S. Public Health Service from 1923 to 1944, or for the 21 years preceding Harris’s article, show there were 256 cases of undulent fever, with 3 deaths (151).  But, because of this industry campaign, my mother, who grew up drinking raw milk, stopped drinking it.   

Some, like Jean Bullitt Darlington, who in 1947 wrote a three-part series entitled “Why Milk Pasteurization?” in the Rural New Yorker, tried to combat industry-produced lies.  Her articles “Sowing the Seeds of Fear,” “Plowing Under the Truth,” and “The Harvest is a Barren One,” obviously, had no impact on the milk industry’s juggernaut (151).  But, I doubt my mother, who lived in rural Georgia, ever read these articles.  Demonstrably, the milk industry’s juggernaut succeeded.

We’ve known, Schmid writes, since 1882, with the work of Robert Koch, that “the human and the bovine tubercle” are “neither identical nor transmissible, and that humans had nothing to fear from bovine bacillus.”  Schmid writes that “the only way the bovine tubercle may pass directly into the milk is if the disease in the animal has become generalized and tubercular lesions have formed on the udders.”  Another indirect route is fecal contamination (35-36). 

The human tubercle may contaminate the milk if a tubercular milker coughs into or otherwise mishandles the milk.”  (35-36)  But, the closed-system automatic milking machine, invented in 1920, prevents the contamination of raw milk by human milkers.  And, today, “most states no longer test for bovine TB because it is nearly unknown in America…though most states that license the retail sale of raw milk do require testing the cows used for milk production” (71-74). 

 Applied Dairy Microbiology (2001) is a comprehensive reference text for dairy microbiology.  In it, Schmid says, Elliot T. Ryser, PhD, of Michigan State University, discusses the safety and quality of milk and, without references for what is “incorrect information,” claims that bacterial infections like diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever were linked to raw milk before World War II (232-234).  Meanwhile, Schmid notes, Ryser does not discuss the 1927 Montreal pasteurized milk-borne outbreak of typhoid which affected nearly 5,000 people and killed 450 people.  Further, Schmid writes, Ryser claims, without references, that the 1986 banning of all interstate shipment of all raw milk products reduced raw-milk related outbreaks of milk-derived illness except in farm families (308-310). 

Schmid notes that Ryser does call aflatoxins, which derive from mold in grains, “ `a major public health concern based on the potential impact of chronic exposure.’ “  Schmid agrees with Ryser that aflatoxins are “potent liver carcinogens for both animals and humans.”  Aflatoxins, Ryser writes, are “ `relatively unaffected by pasteurization, sterilization, fermentation, cold storage, freezing, concentrating or drying….’ “  Yet, Schmid notes, Ryser does not discuss “the desirability of grass feeding,” or “the possibility of utilizing pasture-based systems,” or “the importance of using less grain in feeding” (232-234).  

Schmid, after his exhaustive search through the archives of milk-related data, concludes that the dangers of drinking raw milk from healthy cows and from clean milking systems have been grossly exaggerated by public health officials,  by medical literature, and by, therefore, doctors.  This banning, Schmid argues, has been based on junk science, outright distortions of data, and invented stories:  raw milk is a nutrient dense whole food with a long history of supporting human health.  In the past 40 years, there have been no milk-borne cases of typhoid fever, scarlet fever, or diphtheria despite the fact that raw milk is legally sold in some 35 states and that “millions of farm families” have consumed raw milk (310-311).

So, Schmid charges, warnings about raw milk derive from another motive than the protection of human health (310-311).  And the banning of raw milk by our private and public institutions is a betrayal of our trust (149).     

 Schmid critiques the USDA’s “Official Statement on Raw Milk.”  He argues, with the weight of his research behind him, that “honest investigators have demonstrated that the risk from raw milk is very low”; that “raw milk from healthy cows raised on fresh pasture, produced under sanitary conditions, simply does not contain pathogenic bacteria”; that raw milk can be and is routinely tested for bacteria; that the system of unhealthy cows in confinement dairies produces dangerous pathogens that pasteurization does not kill; that the “cases” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to support the banning of raw milk are biased and flawed; that our government is operating a double food standard as many other industrial, processed foods are much more lethal than raw milk; that the scientific evidence supporting the nutritional benefits of raw milk are being ignored willfully; and that government rulings have nothing to do with the safety of raw milk and everything to do with benefiting the commercial dairy industry (433-442).  I would add that this situation is an effect of the power of corporatism.   

Most importantly, Schmid charges that mandatory pasteurization is a fascist tactic that cannot be said to be supported by our constitution which embodies concepts of freedom of choice.  He asks whether “our constitutional government…[has] the right to make laws outlawing a food that has sustained much of humanity throughout recorded history” (264). 

It’s a good question.

Tipping Points 6: The Untold Story of Milk

(You may want to read my essays in order.)

April 26, 2010

Tipping Points 6

The Untold Story of Milk

 Ron Schmid, in his recently updated book THE UNTOLD STORY OF MILK (2009), explores the history of the commercial milk industry.  The pattern Schmid describes is the same pattern described by Will Allen in THE WAR ON BUGS (2008), discussed in Tipping Points 4.  Both men show that industry demonizes competitive practices (organic farming, raw milk), creates and uses junk science, purchases massive amounts of advertising, and acquires government support to legalize industry practices and to police industry domination of the desired market. 

Schmid shows how little freedom of choice we actually have with regard to milk.  Most Americans have lost the ability to purchase nutrient dense raw milk, and too many dairy farmers have been driven from their farms due to relentless industry pressures to produce large quantities of milk cheaply. 

Schmid demonstrates that all commercial dairy cows, including organic cows, are production units in an industrial system.  The cowness of these cows is being violated.  Commercial cows are neither grazed on pasture nor milked for a reasonable amount of milk.  Thus, the commercial milk system is a garbage in/garbage out system. The milk from these factory cows is not the same as the nutrient dense milk from a pasture-fed cow.  And, industry-processed milk is highly processed.   

Today’s commercial milk industry, as Schmid’s research shows, has not changed philosophically and, in many ways, physically since the early 1800s at the dawn of this industry.  Then, cows were located next to and fed with the swill from whiskey distilleries.  In the late 1830s, Schmid relates, Robert Hartley wrote graphically about the conditions in these dairies.  These cows stood constantly in filth and foul air (55).  They produced cheap slop milk that was so thin and blue that dealers added “starch, sugar, flour, plaster of Paris, and chalk” to give it substance and color (36).  Hartley believed slop milk to be dangerous because when he drank it unknowingly while traveling, it made him sick (33-38).  Unbelievably, the last distillery dairy did not close until 1930. 

Today, Schmid writes, many industrial cows are fed such things as pellets made from the chemically tainted sludge from ethanol plants; chicken manure, which is a known source of salmonella; grain, which increases milk production but causes acidosis and which permits the cow’s stomach to harbor acid-resistant E. coli pathogens; soybeans; bakery waste (bread, cakes, pastries, and candy bars); and “citrus peel cake loaded with pesticides” (39, 223, 358, 298, 324).  Today, most commercial cows are kept in environmentally controlled dairy barns where they stand constantly on concrete floors, which causes painful, laming infections of their feet (210-211).  Normally, cows spend about 50 percent of their time lying down (212). 

Schmid shows that commercial cows are either sickening or sick.  The average life span of a commercial dairy cow is only 3½ years, rather than the normal 12 to 15 years (206).  The national Mastitis Council estimates that some 40 percent of “all dairy cows have some form of mastitis,” an infection of the udder—which means that a lot of commercial milk is coming from sick cows who are being given antibiotics and other drugs.  Medicating sick cows, in turn, “kills off beneficial bacteria in the cows’ intestinal tracts and allows pathogens to proliferate.” 

Thus, Schmidt concludes, both the industry and our industry-corrupted government accept “a substantial amount of disease in confinement cows as part and parcel of the operation” (215).  And, Schmidt adds that “for over fifty years, the federal government has done everything in its power to encourage the production of large quantities of cheap milk and cheap food in general—at the expense of quality and at the price of driving millions of small, quality-conscious farmers off the land” (164).

Cooking milk, or pasteurization, supposedly kills pathogens (210-214).  But commercial milk contains pathogens that even ultrapasteurization cannot kill:  Johne’s disease bacteria, known as Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis and thought to cause Crohn’s disease; Listeria monocytogenes; and E. coli O157:H7, a deadly strain of this particular E. coli strain (437, 358-359, 238-239).  [Schmid cautions, however, that many forms of E.coli do not cause human illness and, in fact, “play a beneficial role in the digestive track.”  Even with E. coli O157:H7, “Schmid writes, “only a few…strains are pathogenic” (311).]  Additionally, cows eating moldy grain can excrete into their milk aflatoxins, which are liver carcinogens and which pasteurization does not kill.  And, commercial pasteurized milk has harbored antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella strains that have caused widespread illness and, even, death (231).

Many pathogens today have recently emerged.  The industrialized, centralized food system is producing these new pathogens.  They are the blowback from the breakdown of holistic farming practices that respect the cowness of cows and the levels of use the soil can support.  Using technological solutions, such as moving from pasteurization to ultrapasteurization to irradiation, is only creating further problems for humans as these solutions are altering food components. 

Schmid writes that Robert Tauxe, from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), reported in 2002 that 13 recently emerged pathogens annually cause the 76 million individual cases of food-borne illnesses, 300,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths.  Tauxe estimated that one in four Americans experience a food-borne illness every year.  Additionally, Schmid argues, it is becoming clearer that much human illness is being caused by the “reduced human immunity due to poor nutrition” caused by consuming products from the centralized food system (274-277). 

Nevertheless, Schmid writes, “milk in general—both pasteurized and raw—is a particularly safe food” when compared to the amount of food-borne illnesses created by the food industry.  In 1997, “milk and milk products accounted for only two tenths of one percent of all reported cases of food-borne illness.”  But, when an outbreak occurs, Schmid cautions, it “usually involves many individuals” (274). 

The more important question—and the subject of Tipping Points 8—is not whether commercial milk is safe, but whether, as processed as it is, it supports human health.  Schmid argues that commercial milk is, from the beginning, a compromised product that can and does produce allergic reactions and chronic illness.  In my terms, commercial milk is a fake food since the cows are not fed what cows eat, which is grass; are not treated properly, which means they are diseased and pumped full of drugs; and as the milk is heavily processed and adulterated with additives—some of which, like the addition of dried nonfat milk to skim milk, are not listed on the label as they are deemed to be industry standard practices.  

We can help our remaining dairy farmers to survive by helping them to escape the commercial system.  Unless you’ve been on chemotherapy, you can help develop a regional milk market by buying local real milk, cream, and value-added milk products, like butter, cheese, kefir, and yogurt.  The web site, Real Milk is one place that lists where to find local milk:  www.realmilk.com.  And, The Weston A. Price Foundation web site is another place where the benefits of real milk are discussed:  www.westonapricefoundation.org.  Real milk may cost a bit more, but as it is a whole, nutrient dense food, you’ll benefit more.  And, likely, you’ll spend less on treating illness.