Archive for November, 2014

A well written critique of the controversy surround raw milk I discovered while researching for a class essay is the article – “Bacteria Land”: The Battle over Raw Milk by Anne Mendelson and published in Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture in 2011. Mendelson’s article details the extensive debate around pasteurisation and raw milk that raged at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. She also gives a pithy critique of the ‘raw’ milk debate now. Well worth a read.

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As part of the final assessment for my science communication class on controversial science, we had to write an essay about our chosen controversy, and, discuss communication issues and how the controversy may be resolved. Below are some excerpts from May essay discussing some of the communication actions the anti-‘raw’ milk faction (primarily governments and public health agencies) could take to help bridge between the two sides perhaps help resolve the controversy.

Communication and associated issues play a key role in the raw milk debate and have helped perpetuate it. An open dialogue between the two opposing sides may help resolve some of these issues. A number of the issues that have exasperated the raw milk debate are associated with communications from government and public health agencies. These agencies could undertake a number of actions to acknowledge and engage with pro-raw milk representatives, such as acknowledgement of different and is similar values and public forums, and these are summarised in the table below. Educational and science communication actions may also assist with bridging the gap between the opposing sides and providing information that is easily understandable by all stakeholders involved.

Suggested Actions for Governments & Public Health Agencies

  • Acknowledge that people consume raw milk and will consume raw milk regardless of public health messages and legal status.
      – Provide information to potential and current raw milk consumers regarding proper handling and storage.
      – Promote safe and hygienic milking, handling and storage techniques to farmers and consumers
  • Acknowledge differences in beliefs between pro- and anti- raw milk sides
  • Acknowledge desire to support local farmers and communities and other ways of doing this
  • Acknowledge and understand differences in perception of risk between the two sides
  • Acknowledge that both sides are concerned with human health and healthy eating
  • Engagement & Dialogue

  • Conduct public forums, discussions and call for submissions from consumers, advocates, scientific, public health and agricultural experts, farmers and legislators
  • Openly discuss –
    standards/guidelines and/or regulation of raw milk processing
    different methods of pasteurisation and alternatives to pasteurisation, including advantages and disadvantages of each methods
    assisting raw milk producers to comply with regulations (Schutz and Ferree, 2012)
  • Engage with key stakeholders and organisations in debates
  • Engage with individual consumers
  • Education

  • Clearly explain the regulatory issues involved in regulating raw milk
  • Explain (in appropriate language with examples that a lay audience can understand) reasons for discouraging the consumption of raw milk, including –
    food-borne diseases and symptoms
    regulatory issues and obligations and to ensure food safety and protect citizens
    pasteurisation as standard practise
  • Science Communication

  • Use science communication methods to discuss and disseminate –
      – results and conclusions from research and epidemiological studies regarding food-borne illness and raw milk
      – results from immunological and biochemical studies in relation to health benefit claims and effects of pasteurisation on milk
  • Will we see this implemented? Will governments and public health agencies open a dialogue and listen to all the stakeholders in the ‘raw’ milk debate?

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