Following on from my post – Experts & Expertise – continued I wanted to post on an article I read early in my research on the ‘raw’ milk debate / controversy. The article, Those Pathogens, What You Should Know was written by Ted Beals, MD and is on the pro-‘raw’ milk advocacy website http://www.realmilk.com. It is an interesting example of information presented by individuals that could be perceived to be experts interlaced with personal and biased opinion. The article discusses food-borne pathogenic bacteria (with some poorly written and erroneous scientific information. e.g. the statement ‘Campylobacter jejuni grows only inside living animal cells’ is incorrect. C. jejuni can multiply outside living cells – I studied Campylobacter for my Masters research, but I am not proclaiming to be an expert or know everything there is to know about Campylobacter), an analysis of risk (inducting conducting his own calculations and analysis of statistics) and commentary on the perpetration of myths and failings of government agencies in relation to bacterial and epidemiological knowledge and analysis. A list of references is included at the end of the article, however there is no in text referencing so a reader does not know the sources of the information quoted. The most interesting part of the article is the biography of the author –
“Ted Beals, MS, MD, is a physician and board certified pathologist, who served on the faculty of University of Michigan Medical School. He is now retired after 31 years of clinical and administrative service in the Veterans Health Administration. A pathologist with personal interest in dairy testing and safety of milk, he has been presenting testimony on dairy safety in North America for the last several years. Ted and his wife Peggy, as cow shareholders, have enhanced their diet with over 600 gallons of their own fresh unprocessed milk.”
Based on the information in the biography, the author does not appear to be either an expert in epidemiology, statistics or bacteriology. The author however, has a personal interest in dairy testing and safety, consumes ‘raw’ milk and has testified on food safety.
The article, although presenting scientific information, also contains personal opinion, bias and a clear pr0-‘raw’ milk message. Is this article, written by someone who could be perceived as an ‘expert’ or someone qualified to comment on scientific information (due to being a medical doctor), presented as ‘scientific’ justification for discrediting government information about consuming ‘raw’ milk, risks involved and encouragement to consume ‘raw’ milk? Are the medical qualifications of the author being used to add gravitas and plausibility to pro-‘raw’ milk arguments?