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Tipping Points 8: Drinking Real Milk

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

April 26, 2010

Tipping Points 8

Drinking Real Milk

 

I started drinking real milk as an act of faith four years ago.  I can still remember how shocked I was that anyone would risk drinking real milk when my neighbor casually said how lucky she felt to have been able to buy real milk locally for her children.  I did not try it right away.  I asked other friends if they drank “real milk,” began to read labels, and began to notice how much of our milk is now ultrapasteurized.  I will confess that I am now addicted to raw milk. 

I recently traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, which is a wasteland for the kind of quality food we enjoy in Maine.  The best I could do for milk was organic whole milk that was homogenized and ultrapasteurized.  To my surprise it tasted bitter, as does milk that has been allowed to boil.  And, it had none of the silky smoothness or the energy, the feeling of life held in a living product, that I experience with real milk. 

Ron Schmid, in THE UNTOLD STORY OF MILK (2009), notes that “milk in general—both pasteurized and raw—is a particularly safe food.”  In 1997, “milk and milk products accounted for only two tenths of one percent of all reported cases of food-borne illness.”  However, when an outbreak occurs, it “usually involves many individuals” (274). 

But, does commercial milk supports human health?  Schmid argues that commercial milk is a compromised product that can and does produce allergic reactions and chronic illness. 

Schmid discusses two competing paradigms which emerged in France in the 1860s:  Louis Pasteur’s germ theory, or the belief that germs cause illness, and Claude Bernard’s milieu interieur theory, or the belief that “illnesses are caused by a failure of the immune system to adequately cope with infectious agents” (43).  Robert Koch’s discovery and isolation of the organisms causing tuberculosis and cholera (1880s) gave Pasteur’s germ theory broad acceptance.  But, Schmid notes, this “mechanistic understanding of disease banished the individual’s power to prevent it and placed the mandate to cure squarely in the hands of the medical professionals” who became allies with the drug companies, since the belief arose also that disease germs could only be “overwhelmed and eliminated” by drugs (46-47). 

Yet, Schmid notes, “ample evidence existed to support Bernard’s alternative theory” of the strong immune system (47).  And recent studies by the Institute for Genomic Research (2008) demonstrate that a healthy human body carries about six pounds of beneficial bacteria which perform myriad tasks, to include creating conditions where pathogens cannot take hold (48). 

Dr. J.E. Crewe, a Mayo Foundation founder, practiced milk cures in the 1920s and 1930s.  White blood (real milk), fed exclusiverly to patients, built up resistance and produced results that Dr. Crewe claimed were so “ `uniformly excellent that one’s conception of disease and its alleviation is necessarily changed’ “ (83).  

Dr. Francis M. Pottenger’s studies on hundreds of cats over 10 years showed that those fed raw milk “thrived with virtually no illness” and produced “generation after generation of healthy cats” (92).  Cats fed pasteurized milk; evaporated milk; or condensed, sweetened milk became diseased and were “eventually unable to reproduce.”  These cats, writes Schmid, were “highly susceptible to infectious and chronic illness and exhibited degenerative skeletal changes” (92).

Dr. Edward Howell, who died in 2000 at 102 years, was considered by many nutritionists to be “the world’s leading expert on enzymes” (10).  Dr. Howell believed enzymes facilitate “ `every chemical reaction that occurs in our body’ “ (10).  He believed that one is born with “ `a certain enzyme potential,’ “ and if we use up our supply of enzyme activity too quickly, we die.  Thus, eating enzyme rich foods, among them real milk, helps our body preserve its enzyme potential, while eating refined foods uses up our enzyme potential.

Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, traveled the world in the 1930s to study healthy people.  The archive he left gives invaluable testimony about the foods healthy people ate.  Dr. Price demonstrated through biochemical analysis that native diets of healthy people were “rich in nutrients poorly supplied in modern diets” (139).  Included in the list of foods commonly used by some of the healthy people Dr. Price studied are whole milk, cheese, and butter from grass-fed animals (141). 

Numerous qualified observers in the early 1900s reported that cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and dental caries did not exist among Eskimos who ate a nutrient-dense, high protein, high-fat diet rich in fermented foods and kelp (110-115).  Nomadic peoples, some of whom exist today, consumed meat; meat fat; organs; and whole, real milk from healthy pasture-fed animals and fermented and foraged foods (112). 

Enzymes process human food.  When we eat, food initially rests in the upper part of our stomachs for thirty to forty-five minutes where the enzymes in the food itself begin digestion.  When the lower stomach opens, the body has to secrete enzymes and acids to process food.  Thus, people eating enzyme-rich foods stress the body less (104-105). 

Milk contains eight identifiable enzymes which facilitate the utilization and digestion of milk.  Fermenting milk enhances these enzymes.  Two of these enzymes destoy pathogens.  Indeed, Schmid notes, lactoferrin was approved by the FDA in 2004 “for use as an anti-microbial spray to combat virulent E. coli contamination in the meat industry” (107).  Pasteurization destroys these enzymes and most of the vitamins C, B6, and B12  and changes the “physical and chemical state of calcium and other minerals that affect absorption” (108). 

Homogenization “crushes milk by forcing it under high pressure and temperature through holes in a die” (250).  People used to judge the quality of their milk by the layer of cream on the top of the glass bottle (250, 262).  The campaign to break down consumer resistence to homogenization took thirty years, but by the 1950s the milk industry “succeeded in convincing Americans to accept a product designed solely for the profit and convenience of manufacturers and distributors” (251). 

After pasteurization and homogenization, milk can be “transported over long distances and stored for a long time” (250).  And, ultrapasterized milk does not require refrigeration if stored in an airtight container.        

Inside a milk factory, all milk is combined and then “separated in centrifuges into fat, protein and various other solids and liquids.”  Then milk is reconstituted at standarized levels for whole, lowfat, and nonfat milk (240).  Homogenization permitted the industry to standardize the cream levels to 3 ½ percent from the 4 to 8 percent butterfat levels of pasture-fed cows.  The skimmed cream makes profitable products for the industry, like ice cream (262), where, as reading labels shows, the cream is further stretched with additives. 

However, Schmid writes, “when fat is removed, it is replaced with protein-and-vitamin-rich skimmed milk powder or concentrate.”  But, drying milk both produces nitrates, “which are potent carcinogens,” and causes “oxidation of the cholesterol in milk.”  Oxidized cholesterol initiates “the process of injury and pathological plaque build-up in the arteries.”  Finally, “the body needs vitamin A to assimilate protein,” so when we “consume foods rich in protein without the supporting fats,” the body “draws on the vitamin A stored in the liver”—a depletion which begins “ushering in a host of diseases.”  Adding calcium and synthetic vitamins to milk, Schmid writes, is “unlikely to benefit consumers…since synthetic versions are poorly absorbed and may often have toxic effects” (217).  Nonfat dried milk is not listed on the label since the FDA allows this practice as an industry standard (240-242).   

So, cooking milk, fracturing its chemical components, and adding additives changes real milk drastically.  Certainly the industrial process is introducing new and dangerous pathogens into milk. 

Schmid cautions that anyone who has undergone chemotherapy should not drink raw milk as it is a living food.  But, he notes also statistics from a 2003 USDA/FDA/CDC paper showing that “deli meats are ten times more likely to cause illness than raw milk” and that pasteurized milk is twenty-nine times more likely (320). 

Here in Maine, we are so lucky.  We can buy delicious, nutrient-dense raw milk from local farmers in our local markets.  My children can and do buy real milk in South Carolina, too.  Those of you who live elsewhere can go to the Real Milk website, www.realmilk.com, to locate real milk sources. 

So, go ahead, refuse to let the milk industry and the government scare you.  Buy local real milk!

Tipping Points 6: The Untold Story of Milk

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(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.

Tipping Points 3: When Did This Happen?

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

Tipping Points 3

April 3, 2010

When Did This Happen?

 I began reading food labels after passing out at my neighbors’ dinner table from a food reaction.  For  two decades I had been shopping the outside aisles of the supermarket where whole foods supposedly lived.  But, I had not questioned the sanctity of dairy products beyond ice cream—which often now included more than the five basic ingredients many food writers recommend as the watershed between real and fake foods.  Whip cream, I thought, for the cobbler I was planning. 

 The text on the front of the package of the All Purpose Whipping Cream read “super fresh” and “ultra-pasteurized, ” which meant raw milk had been preheated to just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then thermally processed to a temperature at or above 280 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two seconds.  Ultrapasteurization, which is suddenly more common, cooks milk.  This product lasts longer on the shelves–six months in an unrefrigerated aseptic (airtight, sterilized) container and up to 50 days in a refrigerated plastic milk container. 

The ingredient label read exactly as follows:  “cream, carrageenan (helps hold the whipped cream peaks), mono and diglycerides (made with vegetable oil, helps put air into the cream as it is whipping), and polysorbate 80 (made from corn oil, helps create stiff peaks).”  Wow, I thought, whipping raw heavy cream makes glorious peaks that last for days.  And, they’re not only killing the nutrients in the cream by cooking them, they’re cutting back on the cream and substituting seaweed and cheap highly processed vegetable oils.   

According to Dr. Mary Enig, a biochemist who is an internationally recognized authority on fats (Know Your Fats), the intensive processing of these vegetable oils breaks down their chemical structures into parts that act like razor blades in human veins and tissues.  These broken structures are the free radicals that cause heart disease.  

Enig is a scientist who since the 1970s has tried to tell the public how dangerous trans fats are, how untrue the lipid hypothesis used to demonize the animal fats people have eaten for centuries is, and how unhealthy the vegetable oils used to substitute for animal fats are.  When Enig tried to expose the scientific flaws in the lipid hypothesis, her work was successfully suppressed, and she never again got any funding.  She is associated with The Weston A. Price Foundation.  And, together with Sally Fallon, she wrote Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat (about healing diets).  Her lecture, The Oiling of America, delivered by Sally Fallon, is available on DVD.        

 Googling the ingredients on the AP cream carton shows that carrageenan is a gel-like thickening and stabilizing agent made from seaweed.  Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant (aids the blending of two liquids, like fats and water) and an emulsifier (helps the surfactant to blend).  Mayonnaise, for instance, is an oil-in-water emulsion made possible with the lecithin emulsifier in egg yolks.  Polysorbate 80 substitutes for egg yolks.  And, mono- and diglycerides are fats made, usually, from highly-processed soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or palm oil.  They, too, act as emulsifiers.  And, they keep most baked products from getting stale.  In other processed foods, such as ice cream, margarine, instant potatoes, and chewing gum, they serve as stabilizers and give body and improved consistency. 

 Dr. Enig writes mono- and diglycerides are not just made from oils–they are the waste by-products of oil industry processing.  They are modern, cheap substitutes for lard and butter and, apparently, for egg yolks.  And, while they can be trans fats and do have some caloric value, industry is not required to list either condition on a label (WAPF web site).  

So, AP ultrapasteurized whipping cream is not a “super fresh” food—an oxymoron of stunning proportions.  It is a fake food.   

When did this happen?

Ann Vileisis, in Kitchen Literacy, describes how food additives have long been a problem in America.  As more people relocated to cities in the early 1900s, the food industry turned to preservatives to cut spoilage and reduce costs.  They used solutions of formaldehyde, salicylic acid, borax, and boracic acid, all of which “mask the natural signs of decomposition that had traditionally signified danger to cooks and eaters.”  The Pure Food and Drug Act, which required labels listing ingredients, was passed in 1906 after some of the largest manufacturers recognized that under the act, which would supercede state and local regulations, they could develop national markets that could and did squeeze out local and regional markets (126-134). 

Almost immediately, the distinction between man-made ingredients and “natural” ingredients became a political football.  Eventually, the act allowed the use of “artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives as ordinary parts of the American diet.”  The average shoppers of that era could not evaluate easily the additives on labels, so they came to rely on the government to protect them.  And, they use brand names as a marker of quality (126-134).

 But, The Pure Food and Drug Act did not prohibit the “inclusion of toxic ingredients in medicines,” and in 1937, a company used the untested drug sulfanilamide to treat streptococcal infections.  Sulfanilamide killed “more than a hundred people, mostly children,” which led to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which required drug manufacturers to test toxicity and report findings to the FDA before a drug could be sold.  The act did not include provisions for toxicity testing for pesticides or food additives (177-178).  But,  Michael Pollan writes in In Defense of Food, and this is very important, it did require that the word “imitation” be listed with regard to “any food product that was, well, an imitation” (34-36). 

World War II shortages jumpstarted the creation of processed foods, which grew from about 1,000 products prewar to 4,000 or 5,000 new products postwar.  By 1950, one in four women worked outside the home, so there was both a loss of time and energy to cook and more money to buy processed food products (Vileisis 187).

The key shift to fake foods occurred in 1973 when industry succeeded in overturning the imitation label requirement.  Pollan writes that the change was not made by Congress, but by the FDA, which simply repealed the imitation labeling requirement within the depths of “a set of new, seemingly consumer-friendly rules about nutrient labeling.” The document stated that “as long as an imitation product was not `nutritionally inferior’ to the natural food it sought to impersonate,” it “could be marketed without using the dreaded `I’ word.”  The “regulatory door,” writes Pollen, “was thrown open to all manner of faked low-fat products:  Fats in things like sour cream and yogurt could now be replaced with hydrogenated oils or guar gum or carrageenan, bacon bits could be replaced with soy protein, the cream in `whipped cream’ and `coffee creamer’ could be replaced with corn starch, and the yolks of liquefied eggs could be replaced with, well, whatever the food scientists could dream up, because the sky was now the limit” (34-36). 

This process of nutritional equivalency—an equivalency decided by industry in collusion with the government, birthed the fake foods that now fill our supermarkets.  And, in turn, this process created a huge experiment that utilizes human subjects eating fake foods.  Look around you:  the experiment is not going well.

What we can do is eat the nutrient dense, whole, organic, local foods available in local markets, farmers’ markets, and our Community Shared Agriculture (CSAs) programs.  Support these markets, support local farmers, support eating foods in their natural seasons, and healthy food will return.  These foods may cost more, but you can make different decisions about what is really important in your life and give up something else in order to buy good food that nourishes your body.  Cheap foods are, in the end, enormously costly in so many ways, not the least of which is your own health and well being.