Georgia's Raw Milk Movement: Is natural really the way to go?
In courtrooms across the country, lawsuits are popping up challenging laws that keep people from drinking raw milk. Some people who pursue healthy lifestyles are convinced that raw milk is the way to go. Health officials say they're wrong and they're endangering their health.
Though it is illegal, raw milk consumption does occur right here in Middle Georgia. Both people that are for and against the consumption of raw milk have the same motive, healthier life styles.
Many health-conscious people across the country are turning to natural, organic and unprocessed foods. They do it with the belief that processing removes vitamins and lowers the nutritional value of food. Some people may be taking these too far, experts say, consuming raw milk straight from the cow instead of buying pasteurized milk from the dairy case.
One raw milk consumer from Barnesville, Georgia is one of many. "Building up your immune system with the beneficial bacteria helps up to not get as many colds,” she says. “We just felt healthier all the way around."
She’s a Middle Georgia mother of one drinks raw milk with her husband. She says he was unable to drink pasteurized milk because of allergies. "I did some research that a lot of people that have dairy allergies can drink raw milk with no problems. So that is how we started drinking raw milk then." but healthcare professionals say drinking raw milk is just not safe nor is it legal.
"A lot of people say that there are health benefits to it, but there is no scientific evidence backing that up,”
says Amber Erickson is Epidemiologist for North Central Health District- Public Health. “It is illegal to sale for human consumption."
Erickson studies disease outbreaks for the North Central Health District for Middle Georgia. Those diseases associated with raw milk keep her busy. "Some of the most common ones are E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Shigella," she says.
Dairy farmers can be licensed by the state of Georgia to sell raw milk, but only for consumption by pets. Many raw milk consumers find way around this law. "People that are consuming the raw milk don't generally tell us where they are receiving it," adds Erickson.
Dairy farmer Heck Davis does not sell raw milk from his Green Glades Farm in Eatonton, Georgia. He just doesn't see any benefit from raw milk consumption. "It's not of any nutritional value. It's not of any quality value," says Davis. "Pasteurization is not a new school. That was the 1800's when they learned about pasteurization."
He says he doesn't understand why someone would want to consume the harmful bacteria in raw milk.
Consumers of raw or unpasteurized milk say that the farmers are the key to safe consumption. "We made sure to buy raw milk from people who treated their cows well and knew out to look out for signs of any danger," adds the Raw Milk Consumer that we interviewed.
Erickson says research shows just the opposite, "There is no way to guarantee that there is a sterile environment when it comes to dairy farms."
According to the center for disease control the risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk is greater for infants and young children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.