What is the raw milk debate really about?

    A recent story about an outbreak of bacterial illnesses in central Pennsylvania stirred up the raw vs. pasteurized milk debate. When people argue the merits of raw milk, what are they really talking about?

    Tuesday’s story about a Health Department investigation into a small outbreak of bacterial illnesses stirred up a debate we’ve seen among NewsWorks readers before: raw milk vs. pasteurized milk. 

    Some will push the fear agenda: If you drink raw milk, you’re gambling with your children’s lives.

    Some will push the anti-corporate agenda: People who drink pasteurized milk are dupes. Big Ag is colluding with the FDA to rub out raw milk producers.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Some folks just speak to personal experience: We like raw milk and cheese. We think it’s healthy. Leave us alone and let us choose for ourselves.

    What is your opinion? Tell us below.

    Any topic can scare up extreme opinions. Will pasteurized milk be the undoing of western civilization? Should raw milk products be abolished? 

    Sale of raw milk is legal in 30 states, including Pennsylvania. New Jersey lawmakers will take up a bill this session that would add their state to that list. A November 2011 story from WHYY’s Carolyn Beeler spurred quite a response from readers, some advocating raw milk, some vilifying it.

    The central debate is neatly summarized by NewsWorks reader Mab:

    “If you eat ground meat you are at risk; if you eat alfalfa sprouts you are at risk; if you eat peanut butter you are at risk. ‘Government’ does not ban these foods — the question is whether raw milk should be treated differently, or whether people interested in consuming raw milk should have that option.”

    One reader cites an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association about a bacterial outbreak in pasteurized milk.

    Pasteurization may save lives, but no health code or legislation can guarantee immortality. As long as safety standards are agreed upon and adhered to, do you believe consumers can make their own choices about what they eat and drink?

    When people debate raw milk, what are they really talking about — choice? Government? Or is it just a lot of yelling over the fence?

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal