I thought I would post this one from The Physician Executive because Val was once my favorite internet buddy. My Canadian ex-compatriate is now remarried and has moved to South Carolina. But one thing has not changed: the timeless notion that people somehow view healthcare as a way to dodge the consequences of overindulging their little pleasures. In this case we are talking about something relatively innocent: unpasteurized dairy consumption. Our health officer in Clark County gets upset every time he hears about another place selling raw milk in Clark County. The latest I found was Camas Produce selling raw goat’s milk.
It’s easy to condemn the practice of consuming raw dairy on its scientific basis. Trouble is I love artisanal French cheeses. Many are raw and were outlawed int he US at the time this post was written in 2007. I am a happy camper now that I can get unpasteurized cheese. I hope Dr. Melnick will forgive me this one indulgence.
Dr. Val at the Voice of Reason posted an article on the hazards of raw milk. She grew up on a dairy farm, so her observations are particularly cogent. The article raised two questions in my mind.
First, our clinic’s practice is heavily Latino, dominated by Salvadoreans who have a tradition of consuming raw milk products. In fact, Salvadoreans consider yogurt made from raw milk one of the healthiest foods for young infants. My patients tell me it is usually introduced at around two or three months of age.
Of course, this goes against the usual recommendations for baby feeding in the US, which appears to me to be based on bowel maturity and propensity for allergies, as much as on healthy nutrition. There have been sporadic cases of bovine mycobacteria amongst Hispanic infants in our area, which is a stone’s throw and a ferry ride across the Potomac from Dr. Val’s stomping grounds (so much for anonymous blogs, eh?)
My classic and rigorous medical training causes me to carefully counsel my patients against the consumption of anything other than breast milk and formula for the first four months and to avoid raw milk products until they are old enough to choose for themselves. My cultural sensitivity makes me wonder if this is truly appropriate.
Yogurt, perhaps reserved for later infancy, is probably a great source of nutrition to have become an important staple in El Salvador. Culture is important to everyone who has one, and food and child-rearing are important aspects of culture. The documented number of infections in our County was 4 in 2005. Is that enough to intrude on culture and tradition, or can we just remain sensitive to the fact that these children are at risk an intervene early? I’ve never had to treat an infant with cow tuberculosis in their gut, but I wonder… I just wonder…
The second thought that came to my mind is about the French! No I’m not getting political… I just like French cheese. One of my favorites is Camembert from Normandy made from raw milk. Perhaps there is something in the process of making cheese that I am missing, but raw milk cheeses taste better and have been really hard to find because of the Department of Agriculture’s import restrictions. I just found a really smelly cheese store nearby and I’m in heaven. The first thing I asked is if they had raw cow’s milk cheese and the guy behind the counter smiled and nodded knowingly. He probably figures me for a connoisseur for asking!
Raw milk products have inherent hazards, but this isn’t like eating a puffer fish prepared by a novice sushi chef.