Sometimes you just have to shake your head in wonder at the FDA’s bureaucrats. TheNYT and even the Valley News have recently run articles describing the controversy over the use of raw milk by artisanal cheesemakers, many of whom work in New Hampshire and Vermont. Today raw milk may legally only be used in the U.S. in the production of cheeses that are aged at least 60 days before being sold. The current debate asks if this time limit should be lengthened or the use of raw milk banned entirely.
There is no question that cheeses made in unsanitary conditions with raw or pasteurized milk that has been unsanitarily produced can carry salmonella, listeria and e-coli bacteria. However, the same is true, according to various USDA web sites, of “any raw food of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, … eggs, seafood, and some fruits and vegetables.” The core issue is sanitation, not the use of raw milk itself.
All that said, France is conducting an ongoing experiment that might be of interest to our health mandarins. Involving millions of people over many centuries, including your humble servant and his family, the French regularly eat raw-milk cheese, most of which is far younger than sixty days. The raw milk Camembert label (“Au Lait Cru”) pictured above adorned the accompaniment to my lunch yesterday, and mirabile dictu, I am still here to write about it. The experts behind the counter at Lillo, our local cheese emporium, tell me that 80% of the cheese that they sell is made with raw milk. FDA please take note.
Note: The overall life expectancy at birth for French citizens is 80.7 years; for Americans it is 78.3 years.
Addendum: Below is a typical American restaurant menu health warning:
The Department of Public Health advises that eating raw or under-cooked meat, poultry, eggs or seafood poses a health risk to everyone, but especially to the elderly, young children under age 4, pregnant women, and other highly susceptible individuals with compromised immune system.
Is it not incongruous that diners are permitted by the government to make their own decisions about the preparation of the food that they eat, but milk products seem to bear the heavy hand of regulation?