Animals – Raw milk under microscope

Whenever we consume food we make assumptions about its effect on our health. One doesn’t need to be a king to be concerned about what we eat. There is a mountain of central government bureaucracy or regulation from the Ministry of Primary Industries to ensure food is produced and prepared in a healthy manner. These regulations help to keep us all safe.

When one opens a plastic bottle of milk and peels off the sealing tab underneath, little thought is given to the question of safety and fitness for consumption of the milk contained. The seal tab is there to improve the food safety and prevent milk leaking out (and bugs getting in). The best before date adds additional information that the milk quality will be as good as it was when it came through the pasteurisation process, bug free and healthy.

Switching tack, marketing slogans that work are ones which sound logical, are believable, and invoke associations which can’t actually be proven but are made by the consumer without even thinking. Emotional weight can be added with a few light words; natural, fresh, healthy, clean and green. Add in the taste sensation and the marketed food product is assumed to be great, worth trying, the way it should be.

In New Zealand there are two big diseases which can potentially be transmitted in raw milk; tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis. Both of these diseases have been largely removed from the health scene in New Zealand with regular testing and monitoring. Brucellosis can cause abortion in pregnant women. Another disease which is present in low levels (the bacteria is widespread in the environment) is listeriosis. Luckily this bacteria is killed in the pasteurisation process. However, the common suggestion that pregnant women avoid eating soft cheese is targeted to reduce the risk of listerial bacterial infection, and is good advice.

Last month I unsuccessfully treated a house cow which presented with “classical clinical listeriosis” symptoms; unable to stand, head tilted to one side, one droopy ear and a history of poor co-ordination and walking in circles. Our practice often treats two to three cows per year with similar clinical listeria symptoms.

Pasteurisation reduces the risk of bacterial infection transmission in milk dramatically. Large milk processing companies have continuous microbiological antibiotic residue testing programmes, dramatically reducing the risk to the average consumer, ensuring the processed food is safe.

Would you choose tastiness over safety?

Animals - Wellsford Vet Clinic