Food Safety

Somewhat Illegal Substance: Raw Milk

It isn’t completely banned in Boston—or in New York City, for that matter. But the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is restricted in both Massachusetts and New York, as well as 24 other states, and it is completely illegal in another 15.

This is encouraging an unlikely band of law-breakers, as parents create clandestine clubs in order to circumvent the raw-milk prohibition and purchase the forbidden drink, the New York Times reports.

Two decades ago, the federal Food and Drug Administration banned interstate sales of raw milk because of health concerns, and it is still riskier to drink than pasteurized milk, experts say. In 1938, milk was blamed for one-quarter of all food- and water-related illnesses, although raw milk today appears to be much more carefully produced. Proponents say raw milk is tastier and offers health benefits that pasteurized milk doesn’t. But at this point there appears to be minimal, if any, scientific support for health claims.

Proponents, who are a varied group, not only “trust the traditional food chain more than the industrial one,” but are willing to spend significantly more for raw milk, says Nina Planck, the author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why. “You cannot categorize the people who are drinking raw milk,” she says. “They are people from the blue states and red states, farmers and yuppies and Birkenstock-wearers.”

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