Animals In Print
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15 December 2011 Issue

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If Raw Milk's Bad, is the Pasteurized Version Safe?

A Notmilk reader (James from San Francisco) wrote:

Dear Notmilk,

"You have campaigned against unpasteurized milk and cheese because you believe that the pathogens in such products continue to multiply and infect consumers. What say you about pasteurized milk? Is that safe to drink?"

Dear James,

Missouri is the "Show-Me" state, and Green Hills Harvest Dairy of Purdin, Missouri has done a great job of providing both you and me with a blood-curdling/milk-curdling answer to your query.

Your timing could not have been better. Yesterday (December 9, 2011),  the Missouri Departments of Health and Agriculture detected unsafe levels of alkaline phosphatase in whole pasteurized milk from Green Hills Harvest Dairy milks after milk tested on Monday exceeded safe standards. Why they waited four days to order a recall from Whole Foods stores and ten other markets remains a mystery.

Green Hills Harvest prides itself on producing organic milk. It looks like a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live there:

On her Realmilkdotcom website, Sally Fallon of the Price Pottenger Institute includes this Green Hill Harvest Dairy promo:

We have a grass-based organic dairy located on 550 acres of  rolling pasture in the Green Hills region of north central Missouri. We milk 40 Jersey-cross cows and feed a small amount of organic corn or barley but no soybeans(soy). We have a closed herd, which means we raise all our own replacements and do not buy any cows or calves at sale barns. Our cows spend all of their time on pasture except when they are in for milking. We use rotational grazing and we allow the cows to raise their calves out on pasture. We process the milk on-farm and make butter in a 250 gallon churn once a week. We are a family farm and family labor provides most of the brains and brawn for the operation. On hot summer days we eat ice cold watermelon while sitting on milk crates and as we gaze out over rolling green pastures we reaffirm that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth! We have a $40 minimum order.

So, what is alkaline phosphatase, and why would that be a concern for consumers?

Cornell University's Department of Food Science Dairy Division reports:

Enzymes are organic catalysts which occur naturally in most raw foods. When milk is pasteurized most of the enzymes are inactivated or their activity is greatly diminished. The first reliable enzymatic test for determining efficiency of pasteurization was developed by Kay and
Graham in England in 1933. It was based upon the inactivation of
alkaline phosphatase.

The phosphatase test is applied to dairy products to determine whether pasteurization was done properly and also to detect the possible addition of raw milk to pasteurized milk.

Rutgers University's Department of Food Science (Dick H. Kleyn, Ph.D.)
offers this second opinion:

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) is an enzyme naturally present in all raw milks, which is used as an indicator of proper milk pasteurization.

Complete pasteurization will inactivate the enzyme to below levels which are detectable...Higher ALP activity may indicate serious deficiencies in the pasteurization process.

So how can a consumer be absolutely safe when it comes to that Carton of milk in the refrigerator. Here are my instructions.

  1. Remove carton of milk from refrigerator.
  2. Open carton.
  3. Pour down drain in kitchen sink.

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Milk is killing people, learn the truth now!
Robert Cohen

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