Raw Milk – Brief Overview of the Contention

Why Raw  Milk became Problematic

Raw milk has been drunk for millenniums however after industrialisation when the farmers became fewer they were required by demand to become commercial large-scale milk production farms. It was observed that the milk in this situation had a tendency to frequently become infected which posed a risk to the general population. This risk of infection was not because of the milk itself but due to the manner of large-scale collection, storage and distribution of the milk.

Manner in which Safety was Demonstrated

Several methods, such as pasteurisation ( a process of heating up milk and then allowing to cool), were proven to reduce this risk and also increase the shelf life of milk. Thus many governments started to legislate pasteurisation (or other proven methods) in view of the public health preservation. This has been investigated and accepted by health experts right around the globe including many of the Muslim experts in Muslim countries (including Saudi Arabia, the ministerial departments run campaigns showing possible dangers) where if you purchase milk at convenience stores then it is the very same pasteurised milk that is sold. This legislation is fully in agreement with the intents of the Islamic law (sharee’ah) from which the necessities (dhurruriyaat) dictate the preservation of life and health.

Re-emergence of Commercial Raw Milk

Later certain farming groups wanted to find a new niche commercial market of milk trade and so they put together a campaign trying to prove raw milk was safe to consume. But this required changes in their collection and storing of raw milk as well as reducing the scale of production (usually to a single herd) and some were able to achieve it and prove it was relatively safe. Many governments allowed this commercial enterprise providing certain conditions (such as regular microbial testing) were fulfilled as agreed by health experts. There is no issue with this medically providing they follow those guidelines to ensure its safety which the health experts advised with. Its shelf life is immensely shortened and so needs to be consumed much sooner than pasteurised milk. Historically prior to commercial farming, milk was mostly consumed the same day and in many hot tropical countries milking animals is often undertaken at night to benefit from the cooler climate however with commercialisation this is difficult.    For the very large-scale milk production farms they needed to continue to pasteurise milk to ensure its public safety.

Need to Return to Experts

This new commercial raw milk production was done on smaller economies of scale (usually in herds) and so its overhead costs to produce milk were more thus to be financially sustainable they embarked on a newer strategy attempting to prove raw milk was of superior quality to pasteurised milk. So some clinical studies were undertaken trying to discredit pasteurised milk attempting to associate it with the rising incidence of atopic conditions and allergies (such as asthma, eczema, food allergies etc). However these studies were too flimsy in terms of strength of evidence (the best of these flimsy studies had too many confounding factors that were not matched such as absence/short duration of breast-feeding, lack of fruit & vegetable intake, etc). None of the real health experts in the field accepted them to have proven a definite link between pasteurisation (or other methods) and associated illness. Had a definite link been proven then it would have been easy to switch all milk production to imitate the raw milk production as they had proven safety but with some extra procedures. The experts did not find the flimsy evidence sufficient enough to advise that.

Side point: In reality, the evidence for breast-feeding (more recently, continued breast-feeding at the time of introducing solids to the infants diet) has shown to give the most consistent benefit in established studies in preventing the aforementioned illnesses. The Islamic ruling is that it should be undertaken for 24 months of age (and up to 30 months depending on degree of prematurity; indeed there is an unappreciated wisdom here) – yet many are headless about breastfeeding. Insha’Allah we will write an article on this at some stage]

Muslim Criticiser of Pasteurised Milk

Then came an unqualified individual (discussed at length here ) who attempted to weigh up this evidence on his own incompetent scales and yet was not from the people who had the ability to do such a thing and thus in his analysis implied that pasteurised milk was associated with illness. He wrote in his long dossier of flimsy reports none of which he is able to appraise (this is similar to just using any narration one hears of without verification, some thing common among tabloid journalism), stating:

Everything I have mentioned above, establishes that contrary to popular opinion, pasteurised milk does not actually have an impeccable record in terms of food-poisoning. And this is besides the very strong evidence of pasteurised milk being a causative factor in allergies, atopy, asthma, heart disease, diabetes amongst others.
Leaving gastric illnesses to one side – pasteurised homogenised milk is tied to heart disease, diabetes, allergies and a great deal of suffering connected to chronic conditions. There is ample evidence for this – right down to the molecular level.

Some experts have called for further evaluation as these flimsy studies are purely speculative but none of the real expert organisations agree on a definite link of illness causation with pasteurised milk or homogenised milk. There are difference amonmg experts of what is the optimal levels for diary products but that is a different issue.

Removal of Pasteurised Milk from Prophetic Narrations

This individual didn’t stop here but went onto his next error and that was to exclude pasteurised milk from the Prophetic narrations that mention the virtues of milk and this was despite him not having a precedence from any trustworthy authority from any of the Muslim scholars nor any of the trustworthy Muslim experts. Many cultures have food dishes particularly deserts that are cooked with milk and then allowed to cool and then consumed are we to likewise point fingers at these !? Making religious positions in the issue of health with out a precedence from the Muslim Scholars is a recurrent theme with this individual something we hope he rectifies.

Another reason why the aforementioned unqualified individual excluded pasteurised milk from the Prophetic narrations such as [that which was reported by al-Haakim and declared authentic (saheeh) by Imaam al-Albaanee in Saheeh al-Jaami’ as-Sagheer no. 1810)]

Indeed Allah the Most High, did not send down a disease except that He sent down for it a cure, except death. So upon you is cow’s milk, for indeed it ruminates upon every herbage

This unqualified individual took the statement “for indeed it ruminates upon every herbage” to understand that if dairy cows are feed on anything other than herbage alone than the narration did not apply to them – as its diet is no longer natural. One needs to know which of the Muslim Scholars have preceded with this condition. Although I have not personally visited dairy farms up and down the country yet I have seen plenty of cattle on fields while driving through rural areas. Farming practices can be variable and historically we have seen some of them cut corners particularly with inappropriate feeding of animals which led to ‘mad-cow disease’ medically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE and resultant vCJD in humans) some years back. Thankfully (walhamdulillah) since then there have been further European governmental regulations trying to prevent this from re-occurring which includes inspection of farms. Our government informs us that the mainstay of the diet is fresh grass or forage with some supplementation. Dairy cows and beef cattle are usually fed grass during the summer months and conserved forage (grass or maize silage, or hay) in the winter. These forages may be supplemented with cereals and other by-products to increase milk yield or live weight gain. The diets of both may also include, as available, forage crops such as kale and rapeseed, root crops (turnips and fodder beet), and the pulp remaining from the processing of sugar beet or citrus fruit.

In Saudi Arabia, where many scholars reside, they require to import their forage due to the desert climate, which is not fresh grass and shrubs like we have here in UK. So again one needs to ask where are the scholars that precede in excluding pasteurised milk from the Prophetic narrations based upon such a condition. So likewise the criticism of this individual applies to those Muslim countries and their health and agriculture departments.

Rather this unqualified individual has opened a new door to tribulation and we advised that he is is not returned back to in issues related to health, nutrition and medicine. It is important that people are known in the field that they discuss prior to them embarking on them. This unqualified individual is unknown in the field of nutrition yet his advocates try to give the impression contrary to this.

If a false assertion is made that pasteurised milk is associated with illnesses then inevitably it will result in it being boycotted by those that are duped by such an assertion and due to the relatively lack of availability of certified raw milk then milk in general will be drastically reduced in everyday diets.  However the drinking of milk is important part of the diet for many nutrients particularly calcium (also Vitamin D in the US where it is fortified).

If there were true concerns, then they should be referred back those concerns to the experts attached to the government before spreading any issues of public safety. Criticising health departments and ministries of health under the Muslim government is from he methodology of the khawaarij. This is the real underlying intent that they believe the medical establishement is corrupt based upon ludicrous statements from quacks.

Pasteurised milk is safe and is not associated with the falsely suggested illnesses but as with all foods there are recommended limits. Current drive is trying to encourage children to drink a glass of milk a day and cut down on other sugary drinks.

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