Raw Milk In Vogue: Only a Greenlight Away?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

food borne illness outbreaks

Amid the worrisome and growing problem of bacterial contamination of food, there is some good news.

Dairy products are some of the safest foods for consumers to eat.

The chart to the right from a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows just how low the risk of foodborne illness in milk products is compared with other foods such as seafood and poultry.

Even produce carries a significantly higher risk for foodborne illness than dairy and this includes dairy that is completely unprocessed and consumed fresh from the farm.

According to published reports from the Centers for Disease Control between 1999 to 2010, foodborne illness from raw milk averaged about 42 per year.

This means that a person is about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than from raw milk, according to Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Mrs. Fallon Morell goes on to add that ” … with good management practices in small grass-based dairies offering fresh unprocessed whole milk for direct human consumption, we may be able to reduce the risk even further.”

While cleanliness and good farm management practices have traditionally been the best ways to minimize the already low risk for raw milk contamination, technology is now offering another tool in the arsenal.

The Mocon Greenlight 900 Series

greenlight model 910A recently developed technology now offers grassbased dairies the ability to test the safety of every batch of raw milk within hours in a cost effective and efficient manner.

Developed by Mocon Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota in partnership with Luxel Biosciences of Cork, Ireland, the small, compact GreenLightâ„¢ Model 910 is a breakthrough system which offers rapid, same day, preventative screening technology for aerobic bacteria right on the farm by measuring respiration to determine the total live bacteria colony count.

Traditional screening technology for pathogenic bacteria which respirate aerobically such as E. Coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Campylobacter use agar or film plate methods which are tedious and time consuming with specialized labs required for the testing and results taking up to a week to produce.

Homogenizing the samples, creating dilutions, preparing the agar plates, replicating the samples up to 4-5 times each and then incubating for 48-72 hours to let bacteria grow is time and labor intensive not to mention cost prohibitive for frequent sampling.

Unlike these traditional testing methods, the GreenLightâ„¢ Model 910 reduces sample preparation time, the overall cost of testing and provides same-day results in 1-12 hours depending on bacterial load.

As bacteria in the test sample multiply and respire, they consume oxygen and this change in oxygen is used to calculate the original sample’s colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) for solids or per milliliter for liquids.

The small unit includes an easy-to-use PC software interface with multiple measurement modes.  In addition, it provides the ability to generate a unique ID for each test so that it is simple to track specific batches.

This means that every single tank of milk could conceivably be tested before it is even bottled and purchased by the consumer!

While the type of bacteria detected in a given sample cannot yet be identified using the Greenlight 900 Series, this capability is expected to be available by the end of the year according to Mocon.

The unit costs about $9,000 and demos are available for farms that wish to try before they buy.

Raw Milk is Inherently Safe and Now Farmers Can Prove It – No Labs Required!

According to Dr. Ted Beals MD who compiled the CDC data that proves raw milk is safe:

“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.”

While Dr. Beals’ analysis no doubt proves the case to those open minded consumers willing to spend the time in research, old habits die hard and the government stance that “raw milk is dangerous” still needlessly scares away far too many consumers who could truly benefit from this nutrient dense food.

Perhaps the advent of cost effective, on-the-farm technology such as the Greenlight 900 Series will help pave the way for raw milk becoming the in vogue, popular health food it truly should be.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Mocon’s New Greenlightâ„¢ 910 Unit Provides Cost-Effective, Same-Day Bacterial Detection For Low/Medium Throughput Users

Those Pathogens, What You Should Know

Picture Credit


Comments (81)

  1. The consuption of raw milk is minimal though, when and if it becomes legal and common there will be illness associated with it. Partly due to the fact that people are generally not super healthy and they are not used to this bacteria. That would be fine if people were willing to accept the consequences of their choices but what are these small time farmers going to do when they sued by the lady who miscarried d/t listeria or the chemo pt that dies of campy when he was trying to be healthy.

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  4. Man, when are we going to wake the heck up?! FEAR is killing is. Fear of germs, fear of nature, fear of each other. I have a friend in the hospital last week who got an infection from a slight scrape (type 2 diabetes complications) – and he is now considering a FECAL transplant. This techno solution to the *problem* of pathogens in raw milk is disinfo at its finest. (Problem – Reaction – Solution). Look at the numbers. The incidence of raw milk making people sick – even without fancy technology – is minuscule and does not warrant an expensive solution. “Microbes are nothing – the terrain is EVERYTHING.” Take care of your immune system and you won’t have to worry about germs.

  5. Amen Keights via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    If it was that dangerous we would be here would we? I think you have more chance of getting hit by a car than having a miscarriage from drinking raw milk.

  6. I love raw milk but unfortunately the data above doesn’t indicate how much of the sample size was based on pasturized vs. not, so it’s not going to be overly convincing to those who it needs to be.

  7. This is fabulous news! i just hope it makes the price go down, we were paying $20 a gallon. It’s a fortune, but I can’t go without it!! My body craves it.

  8. I really notice the taste of raw milk is superior to the junk white sludge found in stores. It angers me that government goes after a healthy product like raw milk yet they allow soda to be sold in the millions. I can get half a gallon for like $4.75 around here.

  9. Yes, I remember learning about this. This is one reason pasteurization was implemented! Although you may be used to listeria (or at least you don’t get sick) it can cross the placenta and your unborn baby does not have the same immunity. There are other pathogens in raw milk that can make you or the baby sick. More than likely, you will not get sick from fresh milked cows if the farmer takes the right precautions. I would never buy it from a store, only a farmer that you trust.

    • Hi Jennifer

      Can you please provide information about listeria crossing the placenta and the fetus not receiving the mums immunity? I thought that with the likes of German Measles that the child won’t get it if the mother is exposed during pregnancy if the mother is immune? Wouldn’t the same go for listeria?

      I’m interested in this as I’ll be trying for another baby soon and plan to drink raw milk throughout (as well as eat raw egg yolks, etc – as recommended by my mother-in-law (‘that’s what we did in my day’) and WAPF).

      Thanks :)

  10. I’ve recently switched to nearly all raw milk. Where I am in northern California, it’s $8.99 for a HALF gallon. For now, I’m in the position where I can spend that, but I haven’t decided what I would do if that changed. I would be dancing in the streets if I could get a full gallon for that much! Really, I’m drooling at hearing some of you can get a whole gallon for $7. I’ve feel great drinking it though, my kids can taste the difference (and like it better!), and it really helps with my oldest’s lactose intolerance. My skin has started looking more youthful since I started drinking it and I had a couple people actually comment on how they’d noticed my skin had gotten a glow they hadn’t seen before.

  11. I’ve recently switched to nearly all raw milk. Where I am in northern California, it’s $8.99 for a HALF gallon. For now, I’m in the position where I can spend that, but I haven’t decided what I would do if that changed. I would be dancing in the streets if I could get a full gallon for that much! Really, I’m drooling at hearing some of you can get a whole gallon for $7. I’ve feel great drinking it though, my kids can taste the difference (and like it better!), and it really helps with my oldest’s lactose intolerance. My skin has started looking more youthful since I started drinking it and I had a couple people actually comment on how they’d noticed my skin had gotten a glow they hadn’t seen before.

  12. Alya Husseini via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    My mother in law in Guatemala drank a glass of raw milk, cow or goat, every day when she was pregnant, didn’t have access to prenatals but had four beautiful, healthy babies. She also gave birth naturally to a pair of 7.5 lb each twins and hadn’t known she was carrying two.

  13. Tracy Beteta via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I wish we could get raw milk around here. I miss having the cream for my coffee in the mornings.

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  15. Kimberly Tidwell Dortch via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Do we really want to quote the CSPI on this since they are the premier promoters of junk science! Don’t get me wrong I agree but I can’t stand what CSPI really stands for.

  16. Tracy Peck Whittington via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Michele Van Sickle Velligan – haven’t heard of any NC dairies but you can always get in our Co-op! :)

  17. I bought my first gallon of raw milk and paid $9.95. My 22 yr old son who was used to drinking 1% wasn’t sure about it but tried it anyways. His question to me was ” Why do you pay twice as much for milk that is straight from the cow and doesn’t have anything done to it? You’d think it would cost less.” [funny guy]
    I also remember 30+ years ago a teenage girl being hospitalized with Polio and the doctors believed she got it from the raw milk the family drank from their own cow. Don’t know if that is true, but wasn’t pasteurization a process that was believed to prevent things like that?

  18. I agree with Erin. I don’t think this is definitive proof that RAW dairy has such a low rate of food borne illnesses. I would think the data is considerably skewed by those who drink pasteurized milk…?

    • Actually, RAW milk has a lower rate of foodborne illness that processed milk…perhaps Sarah can find the link with that information.

  19. That chart doesn’t say anything about raw milk. It compares how many people get sick from different kinds of food, with dairy being one category. A critic would say that the dairy rate is so low because the vast majority of our dairy is pasteurized.

    • Agreed. The government would definitey pick-up and run with that logic. Legislation like this really has little to do with logic or reason, and everything to do with protecting interests.

    • In her post, she says that the dairy includes unprocessed as well. In the paragraph that talks about produce being more dangerous.

    • Read The Untold Story of Milk to get a statistical breakdown between pasturised and raw milk. Pasturised milk has caused far more illness than raw milk. Well worth the read :)

  20. Julene Allen via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I got raw milk from a local dairy farm in Kentucky for $2 a gallon when I lived there several years ago. I am moving back there next week but those folks no longer sell the raw milk to neighbors because the dairy industry milk buyer they mostly sell to threatened to take away his business if he ever caught them doing so. It scared them and now they won’t sell raw milk to anyone. I’ll be buying my own milk goats instead.

  21. Seth Talbert via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I don’t remember hearing any cases, it’s one of the big “DANGERS” of raw milk that the FDA touts but the miscarriage thing comes from the possibility that listeria bacteria may be present in raw milk which has the potential to cause a miscarriage if the mother is infected. If you’ve been drinking raw milk before your pregnancy you should have built up resistance to any bacteria that may have been present in the milk and thus would have no issues during pregnancy. Also quality farms that produce raw milk are typically a lot cleaner then factory farms (even organic), have less bacterial outbreaks (an they don’t sell milk from sick animals unlike factory farms), and by virtue of not having the “safety net” of pasteurization the milking area has to be a lot cleaner, animals have to be healthier, ect. If you’re close to a dairy that produces raw milk I would recommend heading over and having the farmer give you a tour (something a factory farmer would never allow by the way). Here’s the info on the listeria http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/

  22. Rayna Miller via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I get raw milk for 7$ a gallon. Oh so yummy! If I were to buy a gallon of organic milk in the store it would be 6.50. Non organic gallon here is 4.25

    • The prices will come down over time for this technology. And, if you think of it this way … a single incident of foodborne illness can put the farm out of business, $9K is well worth it.

      It is cheaper than much of the other farm equipment that dairy farms use, right? However, I do realize that for some small farms, $9K is a bit out of reach.

      • We have over 200 owners, perhaps I’ll take a survey and see if they’ like to help pay for it. We have produced and drank raw milk for more than 50 years with nary a problem. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but problems are caused by the handling of the product and not with the product itself.

  23. Crystal Powers via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Raw milk is amazing when raised by farmers who are knowledgeable and care about providing safe milk, we raise our own cows and love the milk! However, there are always those who cut corners. Milk from sick cows and dirty conditions is not safe. It is critical to know your farmer in this case! These bad actors are a big part of what got the laws changed in the first place.

  24. Hi Sarah,
    I have some questions unrelated to today’s post. I am hoping to start making kefir soon with raw milk. My husband who we think has a dairy allergy gets terrible ezcema. We want to try the kefir to help heal his gut. In one of your posts you mentioned to a friend to push through the eczema. I know all bodies are different but what is a good timeline to try pushing through before determining there may be a dairy allergy (we haven’t don’t raw dairy before for very long)? Should we do about a cup a day (I know with GAPS we should start slower than that, but we have done tons of probiotics foods for the last year as well as my husband takes a pharmaceutical grade probiotic).
    Also, I read your article about the warning about millet. Do you eat millet at all? If I made millet pancakes once a week would that be too often? We generally don’t eat grains as we have been trying to follow GAPS as best we can but figured it would be better to cheat occassionally on something better than other things. I have fermented the grains just overnight & for 2 days as well. The pancakes are sweeteer with less fermentation but online it shows to ferment millet for several days.
    Also, I have been researching cookware & have looked at posts on your site as well as Weston Price – are ceramic dishes okay & is it a problem if there is aluminum in the pan. My mom bought me some lead free/PFOA/ceramic pans & I took them back due to the alum. Dr Mercola has pans free of so much but I don’t know if it matters as long as the ceramic covers the aluminum. I have stainless steel & just need to replace my wok pan & pancake/egg pan.
    I have been experimenting a lot with fermenting but sometimes run into questions. Do you know of a place where I can call in to get questions answered or are there any online classes that go beyond the basics?
    THanks for your time & help,

    • You can have pretty much as much kefir as you want but watch out for die-off symptoms or allergy symptoms. You might try starting with 1/4 cup, then go from there.
      Millet is not that great – I forget why… goitrogenic?? Aha, here you go:
      I would use sorghum, buckwheat, rice. Even teff. Oftentimes a combo of these tastes the best.
      For a wok, couldn’t you do stainless steel? I use a ceramic pan for eggs/pancakes (looks like Teflon, but it’s not – I do wonder about its safety as it’s a bit scratched up now… sigh). Also occasionally I use my cast iron pan, too. I would stay away from aluminum for sure. Are you saying it’s in the coating??
      For fermenting, I would search this blog for previous articles. There is also a section on video classes and recipes at the top.
      Hope this helps!!

  25. At least it isn’t totally illegal in the US like it is up here. It took me years to find a source for raw milk because farmers are so afraid of stupid laws. As revolutionary as this new technology is I doubt my new found friends could justify the price with their one Jersey :-)

  26. Trixie Grohman Ferguson via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Local raw milk here – there’s only ONE place I could find it, is $10/gallon. I can’t do it, so we don’t have milk. Sad because my daughter LOVES milk. When I was a kid – not THAT many years ago, we would take a jug down to the local dairy and buy a gallon of fresh, raw milk for $.25 gallon. Then the government had to put their noses in my business where it doesn’t belong and ruin everything. As usual.

    • Trixie. Pay it! Things will work out for you. Act in faith. No juice, no cable, no landline, only used clothes for my rapidly growing healthy son….but he gets his milk. Your daughters bones and organs in her childbearing years will thank you. The truth is coming out and people will eventually get the public servants to serve the public again. Blame inflation (another government construct), limited supply, and droughts not the farmer. To feed dairy cows to make creamy milk takes a LOT of grass & hay, which cows used to just graze, now farmers have to buy.

  27. Ashley Kay Chennault via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Jerica.. I get that.. But we have 38 acres that we are about to set up with goats, cows, chickens, pigs, etc.. I don’t think I’ll know what a vacation is anyway ;)… And I can’t wait

  28. Nancy Keighley Petino via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

    There was a time when raw milk wasn’t safe – well, not the milk itself, but the farming practices in big cities (think Chicago stockyards at the turn of the last century) were so filthy that the only way to guarantee safety of the product was to boil it first. It was cheaper, easier, to Pasteurize the milk than clean up the cattle. It has always been safe on the small farm.

    • Deb Hollingsworth April 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Also New York poor little boys walked around barefooted in the winter and would milk the cows and place their filthy feet into the warm milk ti try to stay warm. That couldn’t be very healthy!

  29. Whitney Gesch via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Does anyone remember women having miscarriages due to consuming raw milk? How does this change that? I’m not brill wing rude is really like to know.

  30. Jerica Cadman via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Ashley, if you had your own cow, you would realize that $7/gallon is quite a bargain. Think… no vacations. Ever. That’s dairy farming. :-)

  31. Valerie Theriault Emerson via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

    ok i will…it really erks me the way our Government puts it nose into way to many thing concerning “our” health, then later down the lane we find out what they have done to us and our health, like we are lab rats…first our milk, then all of our food MONSANTO

  32. Ashley Kay Chennault via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I wish it was a little less expensive.. We have a jersey farm near our ranch and it’s like $7 a gallon, but worth it.. I need a cow..

  33. Julene Allen via Facebook April 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Hi Valerie, watch the documentary Farmageddon for the answer to your question. It’s on Netflix and maybe on YouTube.

    • It goes back the Industrial Revolution. People were leaving their family farms in droves to take city jobs but still wanted to consume the same products, milk included. This started the large-scale dairies close to major cities, but these dairies, to keep costs low, started feeding their cows leftover grains from beer brewing. This made the cows sick and more susceptible to carrying infectious microbes. This coupled with unsanitary cow and milk handling (it was appalling!) meant people were becoming severely ill and dying frighteningly often. An immediate solution was needed and since the overall attitude of the time was that science will save us all, they took up Pasteur’s method, which was originally developed for alcohol production. It stopped the illnesses, but at the cost of much of the nutrition the raw milk contains.

  34. That won’t stop the beaurocrats in Washington from reinforcing legislation that puts money in their bank accounts. Sadly, that’s what it’s come down to. More regulations usually get piled on, rather than overturning previously defective legislation. For example, they’ll argue that dairy is as safe as it is because of pasteurization; and yes, I know that there are studies or articles that say otherwise. Reason and logic will not prevail over power and money.

    Here’s the proof: http://ivn.us/2013/02/11/the-revolving-door-fda-and-the-monsanto-company/

  35. The Center for Science in the Public Interest were the same people who ranted and raved about saturated fats in the 1980’s. They pressured McDonald’s and the like to switch to vegetable oils and later in the early 90’s they shamed movie theaters’ use of palm oil to cook popcorn. They are hacks.

    I point this out because when a trusted source of information (this site) references them they are legitimized by the act.

    By the way, I ordered your new ebook and it was great. Thanks for all you do.


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