Friday, December 12, 2014

Ugh this whole raw milk fiasco. Wow.

In the center of the drinks fridge,
but not to be drunk?
No pun intended, but this is hard for me to process. Possibly due to my background in the security industry, my brain likes to just write people off as bad, scumbags, or whatever, because that's the simplest explanation for unconscionable behaviour. Some of the things I dealt with in the past... trying to make sense of it will drive you around the twist, it's better to just say "because he's a shitbag" and move on and not let it upset you too much.

So, thinking about it now, that's probably why I'm less than diplomatic with certain of these self appointed health experts, who I'll just call straight out as scumbags who've just made up some load of bullshit, potentially harmful, and are making a fortune selling it at an inflated price to vulnerable people after scaring them off conventional, safe things.

Now these people with the raw milk though...

Here's some of what we know.
  • We know that before pasteurisation, people often got sick and / or died as a result of drinking tainted milk.
  • We know that it is illegal to sell non-pasteurised milk for human consumption.
  • We know that 4 children became seriously ill and one died after drinking "raw" unpasteurised milk.
To be fair that is all we know right now. It is yet to be established that the milk was actually responsible for this. It seems likely, sure... but let's be fair and not draw our own conclusion and treat it like an established fact when it isn't.

The supplier though. This is where I have mixed feelings.

Judging from their comments in the news article and from some posts (some now removed) they've made on social media, they clearly do think it is ok and in fact preferable to drink unpasteurised milk. There is an arm of the anti-vac, anti-flouride, "everything as close to natural as possible" type movement that is anti pasteurisation and pro raw milk too... it's not just these particular people.

So, I'm not sure if these guys are anti-all that other stuff as well but it does appear that they are advocates of drinking raw milk and the "bath milk not for consumption" sticker is just a nudge nudge wink wink way to circumvent the laws against selling raw milk for human consumption. Laws that are in place for our safety.

So for that and keeping in mind what I said earlier, my first inclination is just to write 'em off as more scumbags pushing dangerous and overpriced goods, pretending that they're healthier products than you'd get from a conventional source. I looked at their FB page though and it is all pictures of happy, well cared for cows and other animals. No one who loves animals that much can really be a bad person, in my mind anyway.

What I am experiencing at this point is called "cognitive dissonance". Two conflicting conclusions on observation of the same situation.

What you can probably take from it is that is possible for even the best people to be misguided. And when you think about it, the food standards laws that we do have do such a good job of preventing the illnesses and diseases they are designed to protect us from, that it's probably easy to get complacent like "oh that's a lot of fuss over nothing, it's all perfectly fine". It kind of reminds me of the Y2K bug... once a problem is solved, people forget what a problem it was. And and some point after that, people start to think there was never a problem in the first place and the solution to that problem is unnecessary or a scam.

That's probably understandable and excusable. Not to say it is excuses trying to circumvent the law of the land, but it is understandable that people might be complacent to the dangers of improperly handled food, untreated milk and so on. Which is all the more reason for the importance to be driven home in the process of businesses or individuals attaining a certification in safe food handling.

As a responsible adult you then have the obligation to take these matters seriously, as you DO know better, you've been presented with all the information, and it is indefensible to simply choose to dismiss it. This is the same argument I have with people in my industry who promote unnecessary, restrictive approaches to dieting. You have been taught better, and just chosen to ignore what you've been taught and do something irresponsible with the potential to do harm to others who come to you in good faith.

The big picture.

You can do a google search on "raw milk healthier" and what you'll find is a lot of the claims about treated milk being "stripped of it's nutrients", too high in carbs, causing disease and so on. Also claims that raw milk cures all manner of diseases. Also a bunch of conspiracy theories similar to the anti-vax, anti-flouride, and other "big pharma / big agriculture" type of nonsense as we touched on earlier.

All of that is completely made up, imaginary, and with literally zero basis in reality. What is a concerning trend these days though, is for people to just choose their own version of reality, their own facts, and insist upon their version being correct and everything else being a lie, regardless of a complete lack of supporting evidence and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In this case, it's all this talk about raw milk being a "healthier, more nutritious" choice.

It just isn't.

This phenomenon is explained to an extent by what is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how people with limited knowledge on a subject will assume a position of authority or expertise on that subject, because in actuality they do not even know enough about it to realise how much they do not know about it!

Now not to be a hypocrite, I'm writing here about the dangers of raw milk when I'm not an authority on the subject. I'm a trainer, not a microbiologist. That though, is why I'm happy to defer to the authority of the people who research these matters professionally. Which is not to say that we should blindly kowtow to authority figures as if they could never be wrong or mistaken... but if you have the choice between the scientific community as a collective, and the people who specialise in a specific field in particular vs someone who just has a strong opinion but no credentials, someone who has just decided "this is how I reckon it is"... who would you reasonably expect to be more likely to be correct?

So this isn't so much an essay on the dangers of raw milk so much as it is about the dangers of the Dunning-Kruger effect run rampant, and the trend towards the dismissal of real science in favour of "feelpinions". Especially it is an essay about the dangers of being complacent in regards to other people's health and wellbeing, and the moral obligation as adults to act responsibly.

In the case of treated vs raw milk though. As I said elsewhere last night, you have got one option that's safe and healthy, and you've got another option that comes with a risk and is also illegal. What possible reason is there to choose the latter option?

Whichever side of the debate you are on, I invite you to come and discuss this matter on facebook.