Today's Question: Should raw milk distribution be regulated?

Thursday, April 2, 2009 | 10:30 a.m. CDT; updated 12:01 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 2, 2009

On Tuesday, Missourian reporter Emily Coleman wrote a story on a new successful product for some Missouri dairy farmers — raw milk. Eric Vimont, owner of Pasture Nectar Farms, has been producing raw milk for sale since 2006 and has found a thriving market for it.

"We tend to do a few other things over time, but (raw milk) will always be our centerpiece, and nothing else can take away from this," Vimont said.

Milk bought in stores is pasteurized, a process that kills potentially harmful bacteria. The milk's texture is then made more uniform by breaking up the milk fat into smaller particles more evenly distributed throughout the liquid, a process called homogenization.

"Raw milk just comes straight out of a cow, and it's cooled down," said Chris Davis, a dairy expert at MU's Southwest Research Center farm. "Nothing is added to it; nothing is taken away from it. It hasn't been heated; it hasn't been homogenized. It's milk in its pure form."

Proponents of raw milk state that the heating destroys nutrients and enzymes vital to digesting the calcium. An FDA consumer magazine from 2004 states that the difference in levels of those enzymes is minimal.

There are health concerns over raw milk that led to an attempt to desist the Vimont's milk operation. According to the article: "On May 19, 2008, the Missouri Health Department warned that raw milk is not necessarily better for children because of a hemolytic uremic syndrome case in an infant who had consumed raw goat's milk."

Last year the State Milk Board issued notices of violation to the Vimonts for selling raw milk out of their homes. Missouri law states that dairy producers be inspected, certified and licensed by the board in order to sell their product through a third-party vendor. Because the Vimonts sold their milk out of their home, however, the law did not apply to them, and an apology letter was sent by the board to the Vimonts.

Should the dairy board try to regulate raw milk being sold out of farmers' homes? Is more education about the health concerns of unregulated products needed as the organic food movement gains more legs?

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John Schultz April 3, 2009 | 9:31 a.m.

Caveat emptor. If you don't feel raw milk is same (and I'm not necessarily convinced it is, nor its alleged benefits over pasteurized milk), then don't buy it. Raw milk dairies who put out a "bad" product will lose business, possibly face legal actions, and be removed from the market without the need for any laws.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 3, 2009 | 11:05 p.m.

Sheesh, safe not same in that first sentence...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 4, 2009 | 3:49 a.m.

Yes it should and all milk be regulated.

Hell I have to read every single label of ingredients anymore before I buy any product I might like due to almost everything has some form of milk product in it or was processed in a plant where milk products are too.

Sure I could get those lactose pills but why spend that extra money when I could change my diet plan and do it not only cheaper but healthier too.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 4, 2009 | 11:31 a.m.

And how does your lactose intolerance affect the regulation of raw milk?

(Report Comment)
Becky Higgins May 12, 2009 | 4:36 p.m.

My parents raised 5 kids on raw milk and it didn't kill either one of us, so I hope that raw milk from farmers does not get regulated. It is better that what sells in the stores. I would definitely buy it in Illinois if it was legal.


(Report Comment)

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