May 25 2012 12:52 AM

Consumers say they hear the warnings about raw milk, but they don't care.


A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News highlighted one of the head-shaking realities that the dairy industry is up against these days as the organic food bandwagon rolls on: consumers are sometimes too ignorant to be saved from themselves.

The topic of the article was the growing popularity of organic raw milk in the San Francisco Bay area. This trend is by no means unique to there. Demand is rising across the U.S. despite repeated warnings from government, university and medical experts about the health danger it carries and the liability risk it poses for dairies.

Of the 4,413 cases of milk-related illness reported from 1993 to 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says more than one-third were due to raw milk. The article's author interviewed consumers who admitted they are aware of the warnings from CDC and other medical groups, but they believe the benefits outweigh the risks so they keep drinking it.

By the way, organic raw milk was selling for $14.50 per gallon (over $168 per hundredweight) at the farmer's market the reporter visited. A central California dairy producer recently told us it's $17 per gallon at the one near them.

The magic elixir perception that has built up around organic raw milk via hearsay and promotion makes its devotees deaf, dumb, and blind to its hazards. Intelligence tends to come into play only if disaster happens, such as a child developing kidney failure from infection by E. coli 0157:H7 because the milk wasn't pasteurized. The newspaper article even quoted a mother who experienced exactly this heartbreak.

And yet, the ignorance persists. This was illustrated by a reader poll that accompanied the on-line version of the article. It asked, "Do the health benefits of drinking raw milk outweigh health concerns?" The day we looked, 66 percent of respondents had said "yes."

This article appears in Hoard's West on page 87 of the May 25, 2012 issue.

Read more about raw milk here.