In the 1920s, pasteurization, or heating, of milk became a widespread practice. The heating process destroys harmful bacteria and other pathogens that may cause sicknesses such as gastroenteritis, miscarriage in pregnant women, or death. At present, thirty states have implemented a variety of laws to allow raw milk sales.
The sale of unpasteurized milk in Indiana is currently prohibited. In fact, it is only legal to drink raw milk in the state if you own the animal the milk came from. Near the end of the recent spring legislative session, however, Indiana lawmakers instructed the state Board of Animal Health to design a management plan for raw, unpasteurized milk. The board is currently accepting public comments regarding the issue.
Public health officials in Indiana are reportedly concerned the state legislature’s request means unpasteurized milk will likely be legalized in the future. According to Indiana Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer House, unpasteurized milk offers no additional health benefits and actually increases human sickness and disease. House stated that prior to the widespread use of pasteurization, about one-quarter of all pathogen outbreaks in the nation were related to the consumption of raw milk. She also said many illness outbreaks related to Campylobacter, salmonella, and E. coli ceased after states began to require pasteurization for all milk sold in the marketplace.
Jerry Kozak, National Milk Producers Federation President, agrees with House. He stated that if lawmakers pass legislation that would allow raw milk to be sold in Indiana, it would be a huge step backwards for public health. Kozak believes bypassing milk pasteurization would likely result in increased sickness and death.
A 13-year study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that disease outbreaks were 150 times more likely to be caused by raw milk and milk products than pasteurized milk. The CDC also found milk-related illness outbreaks were more than twice as likely to occur in states where the sale of raw milk was legal.
Still, others argue that drinking raw milk should be a choice left up to consumers as the pasteurization process reportedly kills both harmful and beneficial bacteria. For example, one probiotic used to make cheese is only found in unpasteurized milk. Cheese manufacturers who use pasteurized milk must add the live bacterium to their milk products in order to produce cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack cheeses.
Additionally, a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that Amish children who regularly consume raw milk have a better immune response to asthma and allergens than farm children in Switzerland who drank only pasteurized milk.
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