I was one of about 2,400 people that listened to the livestreaming of the Raw Milk Debate at the Harvard Law School Food Law Society. There wasn’t really much debate but each side was given a reasonable time to present its arguments. Sally Fallon Morrell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, was the first speaker and gave a good overall summary of the health benefits of raw milk. David Gumpert, author of the Raw Milk Revolution and blogger at The Complete Patient, the second speaker, spoke primarily about the safety of raw milk, citing government statistics as his backup data.
Those speaking against raw milk were Fred Pritzker, food safety attorney, and Dr. Heidi Kassenborg, Director, Dairy & Food Inspection Division, Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Fred Pritzker talked about the sad plight of victims of food poisoning and the potential liabilities of raw milk dairy farmers. He also implied that we as citizens have no basic right to choose to eat the foods we believe are healthy and beneficial. Dr. Kassenborg apparently assumed that if something was already written into law or regulations, it must be accurate. As proof of the dangers of raw milk, she cited specific laws, court decisions, and the claims of health organizations against raw milk such as the outlawing of the sale of raw milk across state lines. Neither Fred Pritzker nor Dr. Kassenborg refered to any research or documentation in support of the risks of drinking raw milk. They both seemed to think that their position–drinking raw milk is dangerous–was a given and didn’t need to be proved, in other words, “everybody knows” drinking raw milk is risky; therefore, nothing further needs to be said.
It is legal to sell raw milk in Massachusetts, and the makeup of the audience, and, therefore, the questions after the debate were more pro raw milk than anti raw milk. One person asking a question mentioned he had noticed that neither Fred Pritzer nor Dr. Hassenborg addressed the government data used by the pro raw milk speakers.
I enjoyed the debate but, like some of those asking questions, I admit I was surprised that neither of the anti raw milk speakers seemed interested in trying to counter the safety data presented by the pro raw milk team. Both Fred Pritzker and Dr. Kassenborg seemed to rely more on the “everybody knows” stance about the dangers of raw milk, as if it wasn’t necessary for them to have any proof or backup data. It was refreshing to learn that the pro raw milk side had the data, studies, and raw milk safety facts, whereas the anti raw milk side depended, at least in this debate, on emotional stories and childhood memories of ’dirty’ farms to support their position.
The debate will be archived on YouTube if you missed it: http://www.youtube.com/user/HLSFoodLawSociety
David Gumpert has a more detailed and interesting post about the raw milk debate on The Complete Patient.
You might also be interested in these other posts on Real Food Houston: