I was recently introduced to the work of Dr. Joseph Mercola through a dangerous article he penned. In “Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois“,1 Mercola sings the praises of raw, unpasteurized milk. Before somebody ends up seriously ill, I’d like to draw attention to some facts about consuming unpasteurized dairy products. I’ll be using selected quotes from Mercola’s article to drive the narrative, but encourage readers to check out his full write-up in case there are any suspicions of quote-mining.
For those who’ve forgotten, pasteurization is simply the rapid heating — then cooling — of milk. This eliminates most of the bacteria that would make you sick, and it allows the milk to stay fresh longer. Pasteurization isn’t the same as boiling/sterilization: it doesn’t wipe out all the pathogens, but it also doesn’t destroy the flavor or essential nutrients.2, 3, 6, 12
“Raw milk dairy products from organically raised pasture-fed cows rank among some of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s far superior in terms of health benefits compared to pasteurized milk, and if statistics are any indication, it’s safer, too”
This is an outright lie. According to the Centers for Disease Control, unpasteurized dairy products are 13 times more likely to cause hospitalization and 150 times more likely to result in foodborne illness.2 Unpasteurized milk is a common source for the bacteria that causes diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, and, typhoid fever.3 It’s irresponsible for anyone labeling themselves as “doctor” to spread deceit like this. Some of the dangers include:
Salmonellosis, usually transmitted to humans by consuming animal products contaminated by animal feces:4 Put bluntly, those organic cows you see standing in the organic fields munching organic grass growing in piles of organic shit… yeah, that’s what “feces” means. Salmonella is at best an uncomfortable disease, featuring diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In extreme cases it can lead to hospitalization. Untreated, in can result in death.
Brucellosis, most commonly acquired by consuming unpasteurized dairy products:5 Common symptoms include fever, anorexia, muscle/joint pain, swelling of the heart/liver/spleen, and swelling of the testicles/scrotum in men. (If you’re a female reporting swelling in the testicles, you’re most likely an anti-vaccine proponent reporting a fake adverse reaction.)
The cautionary list is a long one. For more, please see the CDC page “Food Safety and Raw Milk.”6
“it’s worth remembering that raw milk was consumed for eons before the invention of pasteurization.” — Mercola
It’s also worth remembering that in the 1900s the average adult didn’t live beyond age 50,7 and the earliest humans were lucky to make it out of their 20s.8 Scientific advances in fields such as medicine and agriculture have led to significant increases in the average adult life span. “Eons ago” is a piss-poor argument. Speaking of piss… eons ago, humans allowed their sewage to mix freely with drinking water. Then we learned better.
Back to dairy… by the 1900s, mothers knew the dangers of raw milk, but the pasteurized product wasn’t widely available. They began boiling it to reduce the risk to their infants.3 Has Mercola learned nothing from history?
It’s sad how champions of alternative living long for the good ol’ days — without remembering how bad those days really were.11
“Organically raised cows that are allowed to roam free on pasture where they can graze for their natural food source produce very different milk.” — Mercola
Mercola doesn’t tell us what’s in his “different milk”. Milk is milk. It’s hard to debunk ghost claims. And they’re frustratingly, frequently, common in quack articles such as the good doctor’s. What we do know is the chemical composition of milk.9 Milk, by any other name… is milk. The next time you see a woomeister talking about “different” milk, ask them what’s in their milk, and compare.
The implication here is that “organic is better”, and that’s just not true. Crude oil is 100% natural and organic. Is it good for you? That’s not a joke. It’s not sarcasm. Look it up. (But don’t drink it.)
“It’s also important to realize that pasteurization is only really required for certain kinds of milk” — Mercola
And condoms are only necessary for safe sex with certain kinds of strangers. Sorry, but no. Look: cows aren’t the most sanitary of creatures. They don’t exactly wash their hooves (or udders, or any other body part) after going to the bathroom. They wade through fields full of cow dung all day munching on… well… dung-laden grass. You don’t know what’s growing there, other than the very real possibility it won’t be good for you. For example, consider this photo:
Dairy cattle are subject to other disease vectors such as insects and wild animals. Drinking unpasteurized milk is rather like playing the lottery. Instead of picking numbers, you’re picking bacteria, spores, and other contaminants, and hoping against hope that you don’t swallow something dangerous.
“While the US government, public health, and dairy industry officials say they want to restrict the sale and distribution of raw milk because of safety concerns, it’s quite clear that safety isn’t the motivating factor.” — Mercola
In industrialized countries, milk-borne and milk product-borne outbreaks represent 2–6% of the bacterial foodborne outbreaks.2
I snuck one in on you. That’s not a Mercola quote above. That’s from real scientists, something you won’t find in a Mercola article. Since being introduced to Dr. Mercola, all I’ve found in his work is pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. Safety is the motivating factor here, and has been since pasteurization was introduced.
So why is milk pasteurized, according to Mercola? Hang on to your seats…
“The fact of the matter is that Big Dairy depends on pasteurization”
(Sigh). And Big Pharma depends on cancer: they’re causing it on purpose to increase drug sales.
And aliens are controlling us via hidden signals in our television sets. And… and…
(1) Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois
(2) Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits
(3) The Dangers of Raw Milk (USDA)
(5) Transmission | Brucellosis (CDC)
(6) Food Safety and Raw Milk
(7) National Institute on Aging: Living Longer
(8) Late Pleistocene adult mortality patterns and modern human establishment
(9) Basic Report: 01077, Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D
(10) Agrocybe pediades
(11) Gastroenteritis Conveyed by Raw Milk
(12) Raw Milk Questions and Answers (CDC)
Unpasteurized milk (skull and crossbones) photo illustration by the author, using two public domain works from WikiCommons: “P0772931750(37561)(NRCS Photo Gallery).jpg” from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services — milk in a bottle, extensively photoshopped by author for effect. Image in public domain as a work of the U.S. Government. Skull and crossbones in image by “ScottForesman”, released into public domain with no restrictions. Use of these images does not imply that the original owners share the opinions expressed by the author.
Gladys the Swiss Dairy Cow from Wiki Commons, released into the public domain by James Lebinski. Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.
“Jager út de Stientiid” (caveman boy) is from Wiki Commons and is in the public domain of the United States, having been published prior to 1923.
Trojan brand condoms from copyrighted image, Church & Dwight Co., inc. Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge
Agrocybe pediades spores: image from Wiki Commons, uploaded by user Ron Pastorino, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.
“Jim Dines Pinocchio-skulptur Walking to Borås” by Wiki Commons author “Mrkgrd”, used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.
Tinfoil hats still from the movie “Signs”, copyright 2002 Touchstone Pictures. Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge