Locally grown food can be an excellent environmental and health conscious choice; however, with some foods, locally grown and “all natural” can be dangerous. Last month, five patients had been found with E. coli O157:H7 infections. The common source in these infections was raw milk from a Minnesota farm. For those of you that don’t know what raw milk is, it is not milk without the chocolate, but simply milk that has not undergone the pasteurization process.
The Minnesota Department of Health has taken special interest in this outbreak because of the E. coli strain that caused the infection. O157:H7 is one of the most virulent strains of E. coli. A human doesn’t have to consume a huge amount of milk, just a small amount of bacteria can cause illness. At its extreme, O157:H7 can cause Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney failure and even death, especially in children and older adults.
Minnesota is one of twenty-eight states that have not outlawed the sale of raw milk and is committed to allowing consumers to make their own decisions about what they purchase. However, the MDH has said that they hope people will make well-informed decisions for their purchases. The proponents of raw milk argue that the pasteurization process kills beneficial bacteria, but public health officials state that raw milk can contain a whole host of human pathogens.
I commend Minnesota for protecting consumers’ right to choose what they buy. Humans have been drinking raw milk for centuries after all; on the flip side, pasteurization was invented to prevent the diseases that consuming raw milk caused.
Why take a step backward?
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