Photograph & Copyright by my talented friend Adrian Lander
Traditional consumption of raw milk
Domesticated animals were first used for milk eight to ten thousand years ago, as a genetic change effecting mostly people in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa enabled them to digest milk as adults. Milk from domesticated animals then began to become important as a human food. With domestication and settlement, fewer wild animals were available; as groups of people roamed less, they hunted less, eating more grains and vegetables. In some cultures, milk replaced animal bones as the chief source of calcium and some other minerals.
In indigenous cultures where adults used milk, often it was used as cultured or clabbered milk. This is similar to homemade raw yogurt, and it is partially predigested-much of the lactose (milk sugar) has been broken down by bacterial action. This process must be accomplished over a period of several hours in the stomach when one drinks fresh milk; yogurt or clabbered milk is much more easily digested than fresh milk.
Adaptations in evolution are always the effects of particular causes. Humans developing the ability to digest milk into adulthood possessed a survival advantage; such change is the basis of evolution. Put simply, many human beings evolved the ability to easily digest raw milk because raw milk from healthy, grass-fed animals gave them an adaptive advantage; it made them stronger and more able to reproduce. Such milk remains a wonderful food that provides us with fat-soluble nutrients, calcium, and other minerals that are by and large in short supply in the modern diet.
It isn't legal to sell raw milk for consumption in Australia. It is legal to sell it for cosmetic purposes such as for taking a milk bath. It is not legal to make cheese from it, and yet some of the world's most sought after and oldest traditional artisanal cheese are made with raw milk.
The milk we drink and use in cheesemaking in Australia is required to be heat treated in order to kill certain bacteria. Many of the foodstuffs we eat today that are produced in commercial quantities have been heat treated and processed with chemicals. There is now a growing awareness that these foodstuffs are part of the cause of the growing numbers of allergies in our children today. In fact most people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk and eat raw milk cheeses with no ill effects.
Why? Because the human body evolved to have various gastrointrestinal bacteria in our gut to process and digest the food we eat. In turn our bodies have acquired the ability to draw nutrients and produce disease preventing antibodies from certain food. Modern society however has taken a path whereby it polices food and tells us that we can only eat food prepared in certain ways for the benefits of our health.
However in the case of raw milk, a number of credible scientific research projects have proved that it has a beneficial effect on the body and can reduce allergies in children. Those beneficial bacteria are removed when the milk is pasteurised.
Have you noticed that our dairy corporations now offer enriched milk? They now use oil as a carrier in milk, to try to restore the nutrients killed off in pasteurisation. But added synthetic nutrients are not easily absorbed by the body. Have you seen lactobacillus, acidophilus products in stores? These are some of the healthy bacteria in raw milk, but we are now encouraged to consume them in pill form, where once they were innate in our diets and raw milk products such as yoghurts and soft cheeses.
Once you understand these things it looks like a case of the tail wagging the dog. Why would anyone in their right mind choose synthetic over natural?
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have finally announced a review of domestic dairy processing standards that currently ban the production and sale of raw milk and the cheeses made with it.
Will Studd, whom some of you may have seen on the TV series Cheese Slices or from his excellent Cheese books, is founding director of Fromagent Australia and Calendar Cheese Company who import and distribute many of the wonderful Cheeses that come to table in Australia. He has been leading the battle tirelessly to change the code in relation to raw milk cheeses for twelve years. That's a hell of a lot of lobbying.
This opportunity to effect change may not come again for another ten years so it is vital that anyone who would like to liberate Australian Cheesemakers make a submission to FSANZ. That's you, as an individual, even if you have nothing to do with the food industry, even if you (heaven forbid) don't eat cheese. It's about the right of the consumer to choose what they consume and the support of traditional practices such as the production of raw milk cheeses and other products to ensure that they don't die out. Please, please, please?
Should you wish to read FSANZ discussion paper it is available to download from Will's website - here.
To make your submission I have received the following template (see below) from Will Studd via Kelly Donati of Slow Food Victoria that you can copy and paste and email. Slow Food Victoria will make their own submission. The deadline for public submissions is September 17, 2008.
Send to: Submissions@foodstandards.gov.au
Re: Proposal P1007 Primary Production & Processing Requirements for Raw Milk Products (Australia only)
I would like to register my support for an amendment to the code to bring Australia into line with other major international cheese manufacturing countries. My objections to the current standards that prohibit the production and sale of most cheese made from raw milk in Australia are as follows:
1. The purpose of the Standard is to guarantee safe cheese – however the assumption that pasteurisation as a single step will guarantee safety is not scientifically valid.
2. The single critical control point that guarantees safety for all cheese varieties is starter culture activity that creates a hostile environment to pathogens in the cheese. Starter culture activity comprises two biological components, the first is primary fermentation of milk sugar to organic acids during cheese making and the second is secondary fermentation/metabolism of organic acids, fat and protein during ripening. This principal is supported by scientific studies and accepted by all of the major cheese producing countries of the world i.e. European Union (EU), USA, and Canada.
3. The standard is anti-competitive and trade restrictive. The standard does not encourage world best practice in cheese/milk production and allows the use of milk of poor microbiological quality for cheese making.
4. The microbiological standards for cheese are overly onerous in relation to E.coli and have led to very questionable practices in domestic production. The standard is out of step with scientific studies and the microbiological standards applied in overseas countries.
5. The standard is a breach of Australia’s commitment to WTO Policy, as it cannot be justified on scientific grounds for food safety. WTO Article 5.1 requires members to 'ensure that their sanitary or phytosanitary measures are based on an assessment, as appropriate to the circumstance, of the risks to human, animal or plant life or health, taking into account risk assessment techniques developed by the relevant international organizations'. Article 5.2 states in the assessment of risks 'Members shall take into account available scientific evidence'. Article 5.4 states 'Members should, when determining the appropriate level of sanitary or phytosanitary protection, take into account the objective of minimizing trade effects'.
6. The Standard is overly prescriptive. It does not meet the Council of Australian Government (COAG) guidelines on primary production and processing standards that stipulate an objective of minimal effective regulation.
7. The standard is highly discriminatory. It provides for international exemptions such as Roquefort and Swiss cheese but denies Australian cheese makers a choice of making similar cheese from raw milk. Australian artisanal cheese makers deserve to have the opportunity to develop a significant point of difference to enable their products to survive in a competitive market.
8. Over the past two decades international artisan and farmhouse cheese production has enjoyed a significant growth in demand due to a revolution in consumer interest. Many of these cheeses are made from raw milk and are recognised as having an infinitely superior flavour and regional character when compared to similar cheeses made from pasteurised milk. However unlike their overseas counterparts Australian consumers have been denied a choice of cheeses made from raw milk.
9. There is no reason why cheese made from raw milk should represent a greater degree of risk than those produced from pasteurised milk provided recognised international guidelines are adopted in Australia.
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