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Archive for August, 2014

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I have started mapping out the controversy surrounding ‘raw’ milk. Examining the different elements (scientific, social, political etc.), key ideas, and the different sides / positions / factions. What are the different sides to this controversy and who are the people and organisations involved in the debate around the consumption and sale of ‘raw’ milk?

Below is a list I have compiled so far of the varied sides / positions / factions involved –

  • Public Health Agencies and Departments
  • Local, state, federal and international governments
  • Scientists, public health experts, epidemiologists, medical doctors and regulatory authorities
  • Dairy farmers, milk processors and milk companies
  • Consumers and consumer groups
  • ‘Raw’ milk advocates and advocacy groups
  • ‘Raw’, natural, traditional, organic, whole food consumers and advocates
  • Victims of food-borne illness due to the consumption of ‘raw’ milk
  • Legal firms who prosecute ‘raw’ milk producers on behalf of victims of food-borne illness contracted through consumption of ‘raw’ milk
  • Conspiracy theorists, groups and individuals who distrust governments
  • Individuals and groups that advocate for less government control over citizens’ lives

The list will surely grow as I explore the controversy further.

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A great photo containing a rather interesting quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson courtesy of I Fucking Love Science. Post link – https://www.facebook.com/IFeakingLoveScience/photos/pb.367116489976035.-2207520000.1408660092./910695152284830/?type=1&theaterIMG_1216.PNG

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Would you, dear reader, drink ‘raw’ milk? I am curious.

Source - Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

Source – Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

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The Centers of Disease Control (CDC), the United States’ leading public health authority, defines ‘raw’ milk as – milk that has not been pasteurised to kill harmful germs (Centers of Disease Control, 2013). The CDC then goes on to state that these germs include bacteria, viruses and parasites. I find the use of the term ‘germs’ interesting, as this is a colloquial term. However the article is aimed at a lay audience (the public) and this may explain the use of this and other terms, and even the informal style of the article. But I digress…….

‘Raw’ milk is milk that is not pasteurised. Pasteurisation, is defined by the Collins Dictionary (2014) as the process of heating beverages, such as milk, beer, wine, or cider, or solid foods, such as cheese or crab meat, to destroy harmful or undesirable microorganisms or to limit the rate of fermentation by the application of controlled heat. Dairy Australia describes the process of pasteurisation of milk – milk is heated to approximately 72ºC, held at this temperature for no less than 15 seconds and then cooled immediately to 4ºC or less (Dairy Australia, 2009).

Therefore pasteurisation kills harmful bacteria present in milk. So if ‘raw’ milk is unpasteurised, are pathogenic bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species and Escherichia coli (E. coli) present in ‘raw’ milk? And what risk does drinking ‘raw’ milk pose? Are you likely to suffer food poisoning from drinking ‘raw’ milk?

I will delve deeper into these questions.

References

Centers of Disease Control. (2013). Raw (Unpasteurised) Milk. Retrieved August 16, 2014 from  http://www.cdc.gov/features/rawmilk/

Collins Dictionary. (2014). Pasteurisation. Retrieved August 16, 2014 from http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/pasteurisation

Dairy Australia. (2009). Producing Australian Diary Foods. Retrieved August 16, 2014 from http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/~/media/Documents%20archive/Good%20Health%20Fact%20Sheets%20OLD/Producing%20Dairy%20Foods%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Source - Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

Source – Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

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I have been reading a little about the debate (controversy) centred around ‘raw’ milk. See my post Controversial Science for the background on why I am researching and writing about this topic. At first glance it may seem pretty straight forward. Health departments and Governments ban the sale of ‘raw’ milk (milk that is not pasteurised) and reiterate the risk of contracting food borne bacterial pathogens if you drink ‘raw’ milk. ‘Raw’ milk advocates – farmers, food-lovers, libertarians, alternative lifestyle followers etc, advocate the health and taste benefits of ‘raw’ milk and campaign for decreased government control. But this is just the tip of the iceberg so to say. As I read further I suspect I will uncover the complex nature of this controversy and the multiple factors at play.

As a start, I asked a number of my friends (a chef, an administrator, an aged care worker, an engineer, an architect) about their views on the topic. Their views were varied, complex and support both sides of the argument. What are my views you may ask. I have an opinion, but my role is to discuss this controversy and not way into the debate too much. This may be harder than I think.

Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

Source – Wikimedia. Licensed under Creative Commons

Copyright © 2004 David Monniaux. Licensed under Creative Commons

Copyright © 2004 David Monniaux. Licensed under Creative Commons

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I am studying a postgraduate degree in communication, majoring in science communication. In one of my courses, Controversial Science, we are learning all about controversies in science and the role of communication in these controversies. Topics of controversy and/or public debate can include –

  • Climate change
  • GMO food
  • Water fluoridation
  • Recycled Drinking water
  • Coal seam gas exploration and extraction
  • Vaccination
  • Unpasteurised (‘raw’) milk

And the list goes on……..

For assessment we are to pick a particular controversy and write a blog about this topic. As we blog we need to examine the nature of the controversy, how it arose, who or what are the opposing sides, the role of communication in the controversy, and how the controversy might be resolved. And as a bonus we will learn the practical ins and out of blogging in science communication.

So over the coming months I will be regularly posting on my chosen controversial science topic. And my topic is –

  • Unpasteurised (‘raw’) milk

Stay tuned dear readers!

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