Letter writer: Raw-milk activist failed to mention disease at heart of debate

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In reading food rights and raw-milk activist David Gumpert’s [interview] on “The raw milk debate” in the April 8 issue [“The Raw Milk Debate: An Interview with Food Activist David Gumpert,” Xpress], I was struck by his passion for his subject, but at the same time his ignorance and omission of one of the most important facts as to why the pasteurization of milk has become mandatory in this country.

He pretty much implies that working conditions in dairies and in the bottling of milk are the main concern for safety and safe sources for milk. Posing as something of an expert on the subject of safe sources of raw milk, he has, in fact, totally ignored and/or failed to mention the terms “brucellosis” or “undulant fever” in his [interview]. I strongly suggest that he go to Wikipedia and look it up. What he will find is that the brucella bacteria is highly contagious and is transmitted to humans from infected cattle by drinking unpasteurized milk. The result is a chronic disease, having often debilitating symptoms, that can and often does last for years if not for the duration of one’s life.

Why do I bring this up? For two reasons. One, my grandfather (my grandmother’s second husband) was a scientist whose field was veterinary medicine. He was the man who discovered the cure for brucellosis in cattle. He did this by drinking unpasteurized milk that contained the brucellosis bacteria, becoming ill with the disease, and then treating himself with various serums he had concocted from his own research.

Second, I was possibly the last person on record in the U.S. to have been infected with and suffered from undulant fever (the infected human form of the disease) — from drinking unpasteurized cow’s milk when I was living in France and working on a dairy farm in Brittany. Upon my return to the States, with severe undulating fevers and sore muscles and bones, etc., in 1973, doctors could not even diagnose what it was I was suffering from — as at the time, no case of undulant fever had been reported in 50 years, and younger doctors were not even trained in diagnosis of the disease. It wasn’t until talking with my grandfather one night and telling him of my symptoms that he diagnosed my disease and informed me what I was dealing with.

So … while David Gumbert’s passion about raw milk is contagious, so is the disease he has failed to mention and which is at the very heart of this debate. Mr. Gumbert is obviously not an expert on this subject. All I can say is that whatever the objections are to the process of the pasteurization of milk, they pale in comparison to the objections someone who contracts this disease would have to their state of health. I wouldn’t wish this disease on my worst enemies. And I can’t say that about pasteurized milk — which I have been drinking my whole life with no known ill effects.

— Thomas Crowe


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6 thoughts on “Letter writer: Raw-milk activist failed to mention disease at heart of debate

  1. Terry

    i applaud your article. I was diagnosed with brucellosis in 2005 after decades of suffering without any answers as to why. I’m now disabled because of it. Every time I hear people talk about the health benefits of not pasteurize get, it makes me laugh bitterly. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I hope people listen. They say this bacteria no longer exists in the U.S. But it does.

    • Kat

      I’m glad someone finally has written about this. My mother told me that my maternal grandmother died from drinking unpasteurized milk (this was long before I was born ). I don’t think most people today know about this danger primarily because milk has been pasteurized their whole lives. How quickly we forget…those who don’t remember history are destined to repeat it.

    • Mitchel

      My entire family drank “raw” milk for 25 years from our farm when we grew up. We are all in our 60s with no health problems. Are we lucky? People are allowed to smoke, drink alcohol but god forgive some who wants to drink natural milk.

  2. Gordon S Watson wats

    notice that Thomas Crowe and the other commenters, are talking about things that happened over half a century ago. In Canada, when the legality of raw milk being available for human consumption was a hot topic, a man who’d been one of the federal government inspectors of animal health, educated us-all that Canadian herds have been brucellosis-free, since the mid-1980s. The undulant fever argument is a bogeyman that the Dairy Cartel trots-out, when all else fails. Informed consumers are finding out that the risk of harm from drinking REAL MILK is miniscule, compared with other foodstuffs. Most importantly : whole fresh pure, un-adulterated, un-cooked milk cures Crohne’s disease / irritable bowel syndrom. People who are told they’re allergic to “milk”, are actually allergic to pasteurized/ homogenized milk. Get the facts … think for yourself.

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