A week or so ago I drank a cold, refreshing glass of a liquid the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says is "inherently dangerous" and "should not be consumed by anyone at any time for any purpose."
We're not talking about kerosene, or even the hard cider I brew in the basement, but milk. More precisely, raw milk.
I obtained my raw milk in return for a few dozen seeds I'd saved from last summer's ultra-hot Scotch bonnet pepper crop. (Talk about something that should come with a FDA warning.) I gave them to a neighbor who tends a small herd of Jersey cows, and she filled a clean quart Ball jar for me from the cooling tank in her milking barn.
It seemed like a pretty good deal. I survived the experience and came away reminded that, safety issues aside, you've never tasted real milk in all of its rich, creamy, complex glory until you've tasted raw milk. I was also left wondering why the mere mention of raw milk sparks such fierce controversy.
Raw is the term applied to milk that has not been pasteurized, a process that involves heating it to a specific temperature and holding it there long enough to kill potentially harmful bacteria (typically 161 degrees F for 15 seconds). The process destroys a virtual rogues gallery of bugs that can sicken or, in rare cases, kill people, particularly the young, the old, the pregnant, and those with weak immune systems. The list of germs includes Enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Brucella, Coxiella Burneti, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Government agencies are fond of quoting the statistic that since pasteurization became common in the 1930s, the share of food-borne illnesses attributed to milk has dropped from 25 percent to less than 1 percent.