Category Archives: Industry Issues

Raw Milk vs Pasteurized – The Science

Yet another informative and thoroughly researched article from Vreni at Wellness Tips…

Raw Milk vs Pasteurized – The Science

My farmer was found guilty of contempt of court this week for producing and delivering an illegal “hazardous substance” to me. The substance in question? Elicit drugs? Assault rifles? Anthrax or other deadly agent? No. The hazardous substance they are spending our tax dollars on preventing me from obtaining is raw milk. If my farmer continues to care for and milk my cows for me and give me the milk from my cows, he will be sent to jail.

To me this seems like Orwellian joke. Who is the victim in this milk crime? Is this a crime that deserves a jail sentence? On the one hand Big Brother is trying to protect me from my milk, and on the other, Big Brother refuses to tell me which foods in the grocery store are genetically modified.

I can buy ground beef, take it home and eat it raw but raw milk, which also comes from cows, is so dangerous it can’t be transported across town and given to me.

So, what is the science with respect to raw milk? Is the government’s position warranted? Independent researcher Nadine Ijaz MSc recently presented “Raw Milk: Myths and Evidence” at the BC Center for Disease Control, examining the recent research on raw milk. Please watch her excellent presentation. What follows is a summary of the points Ms. Ijaz makes in her presentation, and I suggest that you watch the presentation to hear about each of these points in more detail.

Myth 1: No evidence that raw milk is more digestible for people with lactose intolerance
A surprise to raw milk enthusiasts, but this is a myth. There is no lactase in fresh milk.

Myth 2: Enzymes and beneficial bacteria make raw milk more digestible
There are many enzymes and bacteria strains in milk, but at the present time there is no evidence to describe their role in human digestion. There is some evidence that the non-harmful lactic-acid bacterium may aid in keeping the bad bugs at bay.

Myth 3: Raw milk is known to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, diabetes
Currently there is very little evidence to examine these questions, and the existing evidence does not substantiate the claims.  Those of us that are raw milk enthusiasts need to be careful that we do not spread unsubstantiated claims, as that reduces our credibility.

Myth 4: Raw milk is a high-risk food
To determine if a food is risky, we need to know the risk per serving, as well as the rates of sickness, hospitalizations and deaths, along with how risky the food is for immunologically susceptible people.

Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) is the gold standard for determining pathogenic risk. QMRA studies characterize the risk of a particular food as low, moderate or high.

Recent QMRA studies for raw milk show that there is a LOW risk for illness / severe health outcome for E-Coli, Listeria, Staphylococcus and Campylobacter. We do not yet have a QMRA for salmonella.

To confirm accuracy of QMRAs, outbreak data is used.  There has not been a single case of Listeria sickness from raw milk in the last 40 years. There has not been a single death from raw milk since 1998.

One to 6% of foodborne illnesses are attributed to all dairy, raw and pasteurized combined.  An extremely small percentage of illnesses and hospitalizations from food-borne illnesses are attributed to raw milk. The rate of hospitalization from raw milk was significantly lower than that from all other foods.

Green leafy vegetables are the most frequent cause of foodborne illness representing 20 percent of all cases between 1998 and 2010. Yet the government has not named green leafy vegetables a hazardous substance.

Myth 5: Raw milk has no unique health benefits
There is strong evidence that the consumption of raw milk has a protective effect on the development of asthma and allergies. Ten studies suggest this.

The most recent study corroborating this evidence is the Gabriella study on 8000 school-aged children in Europe. Both blood samples and milk samples were taken, and study showed that there is an independent protective effect of raw farm milk on the development of asthma, allergy and hay fever by about half. That is HUGE! There is a suggestion that some of the whey proteins that are sensitive to heat and would be destroyed in pasteurization might be involved.

We used to think that each vitamin or mineral works in isolation, and as long as they are in the diet, all will be well. Many studies suggest that there are not large differences in nutrients between pasteurized and raw milk. Now we know that vitamins do not work in isolation – vitamin D works with magnesium and calcium for example.

Perhaps it is this synergistic action of the nutrients that might explain why even small nutrient changes can make big differences in how the milk works in our bodies. Vitamin A gets concentrated after pasteurization, whereas vitamins C, B and E are decreased. Perhaps the minor alteration in these ratios have major affects on how they work in our bodies.

The recent Pasture Cohort Study of 2012, showed that pregnant mothers that drank raw milk had newborns with improved immunity and decreased cow-milk allergy. Infants drinking raw cow milk before the age of one had better immune gene expression. Risk/benefit analysis seems to pertain specifically to some of the most susceptible groups.

Myth 6: Industrial milk processing is harmless to health
There are 4 processes of industrial milk production that milk drinkers may object to – pasteurization, homogenization, vitamin D fortification, and grain/sillage/soy feeding practices.

Some people are choosing raw milk in order to opt of the industrial process. This is the primary reason I personally prefer raw. Due to the precautionary principle it is reasonable to do so.

Pasteurization or heat treatment has already been discussed.

Homogenization is the process of putting the milk through a fine screen at high pressures to break up the fat globules so the fat won’t rise to the top. This is done to improve shelf life primarily. “Homogenization results in the most profound difference to the structure of the milk, and may result in altered health properties” Michalazki Janual 2006: 424.  It affects the fat globule membrane and the organization of the proteins.

It has been hypothesized that homogenization might be the reason that raw milk is protective for asthma and allergy.

Vitamin D3 fortification: A recent 2012 reviewsuggests that vitamin D from the sun is quite different from synthetic vitamin D. There is another study that suggest that kids that are taking vitamin-D fortified milk have lower serum ferritin (iron) status. Individuals may use the precautionary principle and opt out of industrial milk for this reason.

Contemporary feeding practices: Consumers are looking for grass-fed milk that have a more beneficial fatty-acid profile with higher omega 3 and CLA content.

Current evidence does not support:

  1. That people should choose raw milk.
  2. That pregnant women should drink raw farm milk
  3. That public health should recommend that parents should give their babies and kids raw farm milk.

The current evidence does however, support choice.
“It is scientifically reasonable for people, including pregnant women and parents of young children to choose hygienically produced raw milk over industrially produced milk, whether or not they heat it themselves afterwards. It is not scientifically justifiable to prohibit people, including pregnant women or parents of young children from choosing to seek out an important food which may effectively prevent allergy and asthma.” Nadine Ijaz.

So what is the role of public health enforcement?

  1. Limitations should be proportional to the risk posed by the by a given hazard.
  2. Enforcement should be consistent across foods (salad is far riskier than raw milk but is not deemed a hazardous substance).
  3. There should be a balancing of individual rights with public protection. In the case of our herd share, none of our milk goes into public commerce, so there is no risk at all to public safety.

We need to focus on minimizing risk to reasonable levels.  No other food has a zero hazard tolerance threshold. It is important to realize that pasteurization is no guarantee that the milk will be risk-free.

The evidence no longer supports raw milk being designated as a health hazard. Instead governments should consider regulation, mitigation and education in light of the existing evidence.

I sincerely hope that Nadine’s presentation gets viewed and shared.  If you know any health reporters that can take on this story, please let them know.

The war on raw milk and on farmers that are trying to feed a community that wants the food they provide, needs to end. Year after year we hear of farmers being prosecuted and forced out of business for providing food to those that want it.  Most recently, Wisconsin is threatening to jail farmer Hershberger despite being acquitted of 3 of 4 charges related to his raw-milk coop.

We as individuals should have the right to determine what we want to eat, whether that involves raw milk, or avoiding GMO food.  We need help making this a national conversation.  If you can help, please do!

Copyright 2013 Nadine Ijaz MSc, Vreni Gurd
Reprinted with permission
Wellness Tips

Milk Nazis

Gallon-Milk-AspartameOkay, it’s crazy enough that raw milk is illegal both here and across the border in the US, but now there are stories surfacing that the US dairy industry wants to add sweeteners like aspartame to it, WITHOUT LABELLING. It’s a new level of insanity, in my books. On so many levels this is WRONG.

US Dairy Industry Petitions FDA to Approve Aspartame as Hidden, Unlabelled Additive in Milk, Yogurt, Eggnog and Cream

When I spent time in central america I was treated to the beauty of drinking fresh, raw milk and suffered no ill effects whatsoever. In fact, I learned that milk in it’s raw form doesn’t rot, it simply changes form as time progresses. Once it’s no longer fresh and smooth enough to blend in your coffee without clumping, it becomes a texture similar to buttermilk and can be used to make oh-so-delicious pancakes, scones and other baked goods. And it doesn’t have that horrific rancid odour that rotten, processed milk has.

The farm where I stayed had a few cows and we regularly had milk delivered to the house. I gotta say, there’s nothing so local as pouring milk in your coffee that is hand delivered by the farmer and is still warm. Local and delicious!



To GMO or Not to GMO

To GMO or not to GMO, that is the question.

There’s much controversy about genetically modified and genetically engineered food. Do you know what GMO really means and the impact it may be having on your food and health? Here are some of the basics:

A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GE or GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Genetic modification itself isn’t new. It used to be done via selective breeding. This has always seemed a fairly natural method to cultivate the best of any plant or animal species. Remember grade school science class and Gregor Mendel’s pea plants? It was all about furthering the best, hardiest, tastiest genetic make up possible.

The discovery of DNA, however, has brought far more frightening and unnatural-seeming shifts in genetics, like the splicing together of plant and animal characteristics such as fish and strawberries.

“…the gene from a fish that lives in very cold seas has been inserted into a strawberry, allowing the fruit to be frost-tolerant.” (Source: and Mavis Butcher)

What About Choice

Okay, so eating strawberries with fish DNA is weird and may be objectionable to some. What’s more objectionable is that there are no labeling requirements allowing consumers to choose whether they want to eat GM or GE foods or opt out of the experiment. With the jury still out on the benefits of genetically engineered food, I’d like to have a choice thank you very much.

Steps to Avoid GMO/GE Food

There are things you can do to avoid genetically modified foods in your diet.

  1. Get educated on which foods are typically genetically engineered and choose not to eat them
  2. Eat 100% organic (sadly, organic may no longer guarantee non-GMO)
  3. Look for products specifically labeled non-GMO and/or non-GE
  4. Eat 100% grass-fed beef
  5. Shop local and know your farmer

We may not yet be able to do away with GMO/GE altogether, but we can surely limit our support of the industry.


Lack of Food or Lack of Access?

I have a friend who gets mad every time she hears that someone she knows is having a kid. It’s not that she doesn’t like kids. Well, actually, it is that she doesn’t like kids, but it’s also because she believes there isn’t enough food in the world to feed any more people and that it’s irresponsible to breed when there are people on the planet starving.

It seems a commonly held belief that the world can’t support the human population, but I’m not convinced. I’ve come to believe it’s more about access to food than it is availability of food.

Lisa Weasel, author of Food Fray addresses that very subject in a recent interview about genetically modified foods.

“When I was in Zambia I learned that a lot of the food aid issues there are really just transportation issues. The country has enough food but they can’t get it to the people who need it. Issues in India are economic in many cases. The country has enough food but people can’t afford to buy it even if it’s heavily subsidized.”

Read the full article at Cooking Up a Story.

Reasons to Skip Bottled Water

When I switched from bottled water to my own re-usable bottles, I was sure it would be a huge hassle. I was sure I’d forget to refill them, forget to take them along, lose them… In fact, it hasn’t been nearly so dramatic. It’s a very easy habit to maintain, I’ve relatively infrequently been caught waterless, and I haven’t lost a bottle yet.


Like many people, I used to think bottled water was a good idea. Maybe even better than tap water after scares like the deadly water contamination tragedy in small town Ontario. But after I’d done a little accidental research and then dug a little deeper there were some compelling reasons:

  • Tap water must meet higher safety standards than bottled water
  • It’s estimated that 85% to 90% of plastic bottles end up as landfill or floating in the ocean
  • Re-using those bottles seems a decent compromise, but it’s highly unsanitary
  • We’re running out of clean, drinkable water on this planet, and my region of the world is not immune

Don’t Take My Word For It

Bottled Water Isn’t Cool covers a lot of these reasons and more, in greater detail. And a quick search of the Internet will bring up an unlimited number of videos and articles. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Flow movie
Blue Gold movie
Bottled Water Isn’t Cool
More Benefits to Drinking Local Water
Creative Answers to the Question of Water
Drink Local…Water, I Mean

Organic Used to Mean Non-GMO

If you think eating organic means you’re safe from genetically engineered food, think again. Now that Whole Foods, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm are hooking up with Monsanto, it just got harder to keep GMO food off your plate.

In the Organic Consumers Association recent article, The Organic Elite Surrender to Monsanto, details of the sordid little affair have now been made public.

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

Read the full article.

I guess even the best of organic companies can lose sight of their roots and sell out when fame and fortune go to their heads. What a blow for local and sustainable food systems.

The Story of Bottled Water

I came across The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard in March 2009, loved it, and immediately had to write about it. In the 20 minute cartoon video Annie describes in clear, simple terms how demand for stuff is created, the life cycle of stuff — all kinds of stuff — and what stuff is doing to our world.

Once again, with her characteristic clarity and simplicity, Annie has a tale to tell and this time it’s the Story of Bottled Water. This 8 minute video gives you the basic run-down of how we came to believe that bottled was better than tap, and in what ways this is not true.

The issue of bottled water is an important one. If you want to know more, select the “Water” category on where you’ll find articles, movies, and links to related organizations and resources.

Before We’re All Tapped Out

Okay, I know I’ve been on a bit of a rant lately about our most precious resource, local water. BUT, before I step down off my soapbox I have to tell you, I’m not the only one!

I Am Not Alone

First, the other day I was in a coffee shop and requested a decaf latte and a glass of water. My friend was paying so I didn’t notice until I arrived at our table that she had paid for a bottle of water. I then suggested she take the bottled water, if in fact she would drink it, and went back to the counter to request a glass of water. “Truly, I’d prefer a glass of tap water, no ice,” I said kindly. It was duly poured from the pitcher right in front of the server.

As I walked back to my table another patron asked curiously why I had insisted on tap water. “Because Vancouver has great water. Because it’s cleaner than bottled water. Because there are tons of plastic floating in our oceans. Because of the politics around our freedom of access to water. Those are a few of the reasons…” She applauded my insistence and we shared a bonding moment of appreciation for fresh, local, delicious, tap water.

Discover the Truth

Second, there are a whole bunch of other people throughout North America who are also concerned about bottled water and there’s a new documentary that proves it, Tapped. From the producers of Who Killed the Electric Car? and I.O.U.S.A. comes another let’s-get-to-the-truth film about the bottled water industry. It’s a challenging topic, one with many faces including:

  • The advertising and marketing scam of bottled water
  • Loss of access to water as a basic human right
  • Toxicity of the plastic bottles themselves
  • Lack of adequate safety regulation of the industry
  • The environmental impact of the used bottles

You Are Not Powerless

Tired of hearing about the problem, but feeling powerless? Stop being powerless! You can make small, easy decisions that support your health, your community, and your right to fresh, clean water.

For starters buy safe, reusable bottles (metal, glass, non-BPA plastic)… and use them. If I can do it, you can do it.

Then, check out the Tapped website for additional ideas and resources on how to be part of the solution.

Is Health Canada Protecting You?

When I recently posted a video of police in the US raiding an organic food store with guns drawn, my first thought was “Oh look, the War on Raw Cheese has begun.” After all, those frightening organic grocers are a pretty deadly threat, don’t you think?

My second, less tongue-in-cheek thought was, “Yikes, if it happens there, someday it could happen here.” Yikes indeed. Turns out, it might not be someday, it might be next week.

Among other concerns, first Bill C-6 and now the new Bill C-36 give Health Canada unprecedented rights to literally enter private citizens’ homes and businesses with no legal safeguards for those citizens. What’s wrong with this picture? Even known drug lords are innocent until proven guilty.

I’ve always appreciated that we Canadians take a more reasoned, conservative approach to meddling with the affairs of our citizens. Or so I thought. Seems the reduction of civil liberties in the name of security may not be something we lament only for our neighbours to the south.

I want to have a choice about what goes into my body whether it’s water, food, or medicine. I’m bright enough to seek out options, I make choices, and I take the responsibility. My choice may not be your choice, but allowing it to be my choice is precisely the beauty that living in a democracy offers.

In my view, health regulations are meant to ensure I’m getting the truth about my options, not for someone to be forcing choices on me, without my having any recourse or external checks and balances.

I was recently asked by a reporter if I trust our health regulations. Well no, no I don’t. Not unreservedly. I mean, it was perfectly legal to put unhealthy goop on movie popcorn for decades until the public got wind of what it actually contained and raised a ruckus. Right? And it took the action of private citizens to bring the truth about cigarettes to light, didn’t it? (And still we have choice about cigarettes.)

I don’t know all the in’s and out’s about the new proposed Health Canada legislation (Bill C-36) but it’s worth learning more before it quietly passes into law.

National Health Products Protection Association
Health Canada Exposed
Shiv Chopra, Health Canada Whistleblower

I do know that we need to maintain our right to choice and our right to due process. Giving any government organization the right to operate above the law is a recipe for disaster. And it’s not democracy.