Op-Ed Refutes Doctor’s Raw Milk Child Endangerment Claim

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist April 10, 2012

Homemade Baby Formula Ingredients

Last month, board certified infectious diseases and critical care doctor Daniel H. Gervich MD wrote a piece for the Des Moines Register claiming that feeding raw milk to babies is tantamount to child endangerment.

Dr. Gervich’s misinformed and outrageous claim was made in response to House Study Bill 585 which, if passed, would dismantle Iowa’s strict anti-raw dairy laws by allowing consumers to purchase it on the farm or have it delivered without restrictions to their homes.

As a Board Member and Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, I felt compelled to write an informed response to Dr. Gervich’s outlandish editorial.  I was delighted to learn yesterday that the Des Moines Register is publishing the op-ed today both in print and online.

From The Des Moines Register, April 10, 2012 edition

Another View: Health Concerns from Raw Milk are Exaggerated

As a board member for the Weston A. Price Foundation, I have successfully taught and coached hundreds of parents over the past 10 years on how to safely make a raw milk baby formula. I am dismayed by Dr. Daniel H. Gervich’s misinformed opinion on House Study Bill 585, where he contends that feeding unpasteurized milk to babies is tantamount to child endangerment.

Our nutrition education group recommends that only carefully produced unpasteurized milk is suitable for human consumption. Farms produce such milk from healthy cows grazing on pasture. Such farms routinely test for pathogens and are meticulous about food safety.

Parents seek a raw milk formula when their baby is failing to thrive on commercial formula. Many of these children suffer from severe constipation, eczema, reflux and other mild to severe digestive and developmental problems.

Often, these parents feel abandoned by their pediatricians who only suggest a different brand of commercial formula or medications to cover the symptoms without actually resolving the ailment.

Parents are relieved and delighted once they try homemade raw milk formula. Many report that their babies finally begin to sleep through the night. Such problems as reflux and eczema significantly improve and even disappear.

Not even one parent has gone back to commercial formula after trying the homemade formula. The satisfaction rate for parents is at or near 100 percent.

It is wrong to force mothers who cannot breastfeed down the path to commercial formula when there is a clear danger from these unnatural concoctions. A baby recently died from tainted commercial formula purchased at Wal-Mart. Consider also the recent news reports of arsenic in organic baby formula.

Raw milk is a safer and healthier breast milk substitute than any commercial formula. I have never come across even a single report of a baby consuming a raw milk formula suffering from any of the illnesses Dr. Gervich mentions. On the contrary, babies have far fewer health problems on a raw milk formula as compared to commercial formulas.

Gervich gets his facts from a flawed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which claims raw milk is 150 times riskier than pasteurized. The Weston A. Price Foundation rebuts this report in CDC Cherry Picks Data to Make Case Against Raw Milk.

Raw milk is a safer and healthier breast milk substitute than any commercial formula. I have never come across even a single report of a baby consuming a raw milk formula suffering from any of the illnesses Dr. Gervich mentions. On the contrary, babies have far fewer health problems on a raw milk formula as compared to commercial formulas.

Gervich gets his facts from a flawed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which claims raw milk is 150 times riskier than pasteurized. The Weston A. Price Foundation rebuts this report in “CDC Cherry Picks Data to Make Case Against Raw Milk.”

According to research from Dr. Ted Beals, M.D., who has examined government data on illness and death caused by unpasteurized milk: “It is irresponsible for senior national government officials to oppose raw milk, claiming that it is inherently hazardous. There is no justification for opposing the sale of raw milk or warning against its inclusion in the diets of children and adults.”

Dr. Beals has compiled published reports of illness attributed to unpasteurized (raw) milk from 1999 to 2010. During the 11-year period, illnesses attributed to raw milk averaged only 42 per year. This means a person is 35,000 times more likely to get food borne illness from other foods than from unpasteurized milk.

With over 9 million people currently consuming unpasteurized milk, according to the 2010 census, or about 3 percent of the population, it would seem that if raw milk was as dangerous as Dr. Gervich claims, reports of serious illness from its consumption would be an almost daily occurrence.

It would be wise for physicians to stop issuing shrill warnings against unpasteurized milk using skewed statistics put forth by governmental agencies like the CDC and actually examine the data for themselves to understand the truth. Raw, unpasteurized milk from cows freely grazing on green grass is one of the safest foods anyone, particularly a baby, can consume.

 

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources:  Letter to the Des Moines Register by Dr. Gervich, March 5, 2012

 

Comments (28)

  1. Rising Plague is a good book to read, and a great answer as to why the milk today is not the same as the milk of 50 years ago. Also, before you jump to conclusions and call doctors all sorts of names, please consider this – they are the ones who end up treating the unfortunate kids who end up on dialysis with failing kidneys, even sometimes losing their kidney, to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. Many of you seem very angry and judgmental of the mothers who come to you for help and advice, and that seems selfrighteous and not very helpful at all to me. As a mother and a nurse, I often recommend Baby’s Only for mothers who are unable to, for whatever reason, to nurse their babies. In my 13 years in the profession, I have NEVER treated a baby who suffered from arsenic poison or any other adverse effects from formulas, but we see several cases a month of HUS (ALWAYS from unpasteruzed goat’s milk). I’m all for being as close to nature as possible, and if the products are closely QCd and safe, by all means. I truly despise commercial formulas, and am certain that many of childhood medical problems (diabetes, obesity, behavioral problems) may be directly linked to the over-processed formulas on which they are started as infants, but I don’t belive that villifying the healthcare workers who fight so hard to get the word out there is in anyone’s best interest. There’s more than one side to every story.

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  2. Great article. I live in Iowa and have been searching for a while for a raw milk supplier. I’d love to purchase some. None of the WPF chapter leaders in Iowa are near by and driving 4 hours just isn’t cost effective, the closest one in Minnesota never emailed me back… I will continue my search.

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  3. Hi Sarah! I LOVE LOVE LOVE our Raw Milk, and even did a short blog post about it recently. But- I have had some family members come to me concerned about raw milk and miscarriage. I’ve already had one miscarriage (before we drank raw milk), and naturally they’re concerned for me. After reading a lot more on the topic- I’m a little concerned, too. I’m fairly confident that it’s super safe and that my chances to miscarry are probably LOWER now that I drink raw milk and my body is just in better shape nutritionally than before…but haven’t seen any research on it.
    Could you help me in answering our questions about the safety of raw milk during pregnancy? What would be the signs of listeriosis from our raw milk (which comes from a fabulous farm and super healthy cows)? How could we protect our future child from the threat of listeriosis if we continue to drink our raw milk?
    Or is the threat of listeria contamination little to none with good quality raw milk? Thanks so much!
    Kimberly\’s last post: No Debate? Hardly.

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  4. Sarah – perfect response. We need to pick up our pens like you and challenge these guys continuously – great they would publish it, too.

    Last year in my district in northeast Indiana, I found out eggshells were no longer admitted to be put on fields. I called up my congressman and asked what kind of poison was sanctioned instead of eggshells now? But need to do more, much more: this has inspired me!

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  5. Both of my children have done so well on the homemade formula. People always ask what I feed them and are always amazed, I am so thankful that I was brave enough to try it and have never regretted it.

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  6. My Uncle David was raised on raw milk in the 50′s. He was an unusually large baby (almost 11#). It’s probable that my Grandma had gestational diabetes, although they didn’t know it then. He was born with a club foot. My Grandparents lived in the country and kept a cow. The local doctor told them how to ammend the cow’s milk to feed it to him. If raw cow’s milk nurished my Uncle then (even with his hard start in life), how is the same substance a threat now? My Uncle is 55, his foot was straighted long ago, and he is the father of two healthy children and a grandpa. Thank goodness for the common sense doctor who worked with them and helped them feed their baby.

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  7. Way to go, Sarah! As everyone has already said, thank you for standing up for the truth. Your blog is still my favorite real food blog… by far!

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  8. Well done!!
    My neice has been ill for months and on commerical formula, and even on homemade formula using “lightly” pasteurized milk – as raw milk is virtually impossible to get here. Anyway, my sister DID get some, and made the homemade formula. The baby was showing improvements nearly immediately – and continues to improve and thrive. Amazing really!

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  9. Someone needs to point that idiot doctor in the direction of the WAPF web site and the real milk web site. You’d think he would understand education by now, as well as the fact that most everything has two sides. But it’s that tunnel vision they’re taught by the Rockefeller sponsored curriculum at med schools, doncha know.

    But I can tell you for a fact that I see, every single day, the bad effects of powdered, store-purchased formula on babies. Every time I take on a new client and they bring me the cheapest brand of baby formula (that would be the walmart or sam’s club brand) it makes me cringe. I always wonder why they had a baby if they couldn’t afford a baby – or if they couldn’t afford the TIME to research what’s best for that baby. But even when you tell them they don’t get it. As babies get older and I suggest egg yolks, meat and mashed avocadao as first foods the parents look at me like I have three heads. I’ve found there are definitely two classes of people: those who hear it and want to know/learn more, and those who hear it and dismiss it as bunk (and think I’m some sort of ghoul)! I’ve never had anyone from the “bunk thinkers” side come over to my side. I’m afraid this moronistic doctor is in that same class. I surmise, too, that even if he remotely believed in raw milk he’d never admit it because he’s been paid not to believe it.

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  10. I think there should be a federal law that ALL raw milk must be tested for pathogens. All. My raw milk diary farmer test every batch of raw milk. If there’s a an outbreak of anything that can be traced back to raw milk we may all lose the right to drink it. Better safe than sorry. BTW – I pay almost 13 bucks a gallon for my raw milk and it’s worth it to know it’s been tested.

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  11. Roseann @ The Wholesome Life April 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Good for you Sarah…
    My daughter just had a baby in February and I’ve been trying to get her to try homemade formula. She lives in New Jersey where raw milk is prohibited and I was even going to make it for her and bring it down to her once a week, but she believes what her doctor said. When she was still pregnant, she told her doctor about me giving her raw milk and he told her not to drink any milk I give her because it’s not safe…ugggghhhh!!! Meanwhile, she is feeding my granddaughter Similac. I hope things change soon. It truly bothers me that our government is siding with big business rather than what is best for us. Milk processing is a multi billion dollar business.
    Roseann @ The Wholesome Life\’s last post: The Wholesome Life updated Fri Mar 23 2012 2:08 pm EDT

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    • Couldn’t you make her some formula with low-temp pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from pastured Jersey cows? That would be much better than commercial formula, even if now quite as good as raw. You could even pasteurize your own raw milk.

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  12. It’s good to have another voice publicly added to this, but the funnel deadline has passed for bills to report out of committee. The original piece by Gervich may even have been published after the funnel deadline. I don’t think any changes in the law will get traction here for years.

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    • Well, at least if it is too late for this session getting the information out there may* help create intelligent discussion on the matter before another attempt can be made to resubmit the bill.

      *I say may because we’ve all seen how discussions that should be civil and fact based can quickly become emotional and fear based.

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  13. It’s laudable that you are defending the right to drink raw milk, but I’m curious about this claim: “With over 9 million people currently consuming unpasteurized milk, according to the 2010 census…”

    According to the 2010 Census? Do you have some kind of citation for that? I’ve never seen any dietary questions on the census forms.

    If you want to persuade people, you have to have your facts straight. Once a reader with critical thinking skills spots a clear and blatant falsehood, you immediately lose credibility.

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    • I think it’s just a poorly constructed sentence. I think the 9 million is extrapolated from the CDC data and the part that is “according to the 2010 census” is that 9 million represents about 3% of the population. Just my best guess of what’s going on here.

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    • The 9 million people were projected by a Center for Disease Control (CDC) survey, not in the regular census. The survey was conducted both in states where fresh (raw) milk is legal and where it is illegal – I believe the survey included approximately 9 states. They found that 3% of the populations in those states consume fresh milk. That 3% finding was applied to the population data derived from the 2010 census to get the 9 million.

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  14. Good that a member of WAP is setting the misinformed mainstream right! Its ridiculous to call raw milk dangerous when theres been several cases of contamination on factory farms.

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    • That’s a logical fallacy. It’s equivalent to saying that it’s ridiculous to say guns can kill people because some people have been killed with knives. The safety of raw milk has to be defended in it’s own right. You can’t say raw milk safe simply because pasteurized milk has been contaminated in the past.

      (And, for the record I’m pro-raw milk–I’m just anti-logical fallacies.)

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      • Kristin, I don’t think that was her argument. She seems to be saying that they call raw milk dangerous, but don’t call pasteurized milk dangerous, even though there have been “several cases of contamination on factory farms.” I don’t know why you seem so eager to argue with people who agree with you, but make sure you’re pointing out something that’s an actual error, not something you just jump to conclusions about for the sake of argument.

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        • That doesn’t change my point at all. Whether they call pasteurized milk dangerous or not is completely irrelevant. The safety of raw milk has to be proved on its own merits.

          I’m not “eager to argue” with anyone. I’m tired of important issues being undermined by people who don’t seem to understand the importance of making solid, factually based arguments when trying to persuade others who are not already true believers. It doesn’t help the legislative efforts in Iowa to have a “supporter” offer sloppy arguments; instead, it undermines those efforts by destroying the credibility of the movement.

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          • Kristen,
            All milk is proven no matter if it’s organic, raw, or confinement based dairy. Well maintained dairies routinely do a SCC and Bactria count, if the count is high you shouldn’t be consuming.
            BUT the majority of small family run pasture based dairies have the best SCC counts, and knowing who your farmer is, and being able to have a farm tour is a great way of seeing first hand what your putting in your mouth.
            Please read a little more about SCC.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatic_cell_count

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