Strange Timing of Pediatricians' New, New, Old, Old, Slam of Raw Milk; Same Old Cheap-Chicken Story
When I saw news Monday that the American Academy of Pediatrics had issued a major warning about raw milk, I thought it sounded familiar. The warning was picked up widely, by the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, ABC News, and other mainstream media, as if it was hot off the presses.
But hadn’t the AAP in years previous joined the chorus of medical alphabet organizations in condemning raw milk? Sure enough, a Google search produced several references to AAP warnings against raw milk, including one from 2008.
So.....what was the organization doing issuing another, making believe it was some new piece of policy from the organization representing some 60,000 pediatricians?
Even more curious, why was the recommendation coming just five days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control dropped its bombshell that, unbeknownst to raw milk drinkers, thousands were becoming ill from phantom illnesses?
I decided to inquire with the AAP about the strange timing of events, and was put in touch with one of the authors of the academy’s policy statement, Jatlinder Bhatia. He refused to speak with me, but agreed to answer a few questions by email.
Yes, he said, the AAP had previously come out against raw milk. So, was there something new in the statement issued earlier this week?
Not really. “AAP reaffirms or retires statements every five years; the (new) statement reiterates and updates,” he said.
So.....was there something going on to prompt this new, new, old, old recommendation? Only one thing: the “increased perception that raw milk is ‘good’ for you.” In other words, the growing popularity of raw milk and the resulting buzz that people are seeing health benefits seems to be making the docs nervous.
He defended the AAP’s position in going beyond even what the CDC and FDA have pushed for, by demanding a complete ban on raw milk sales nationally, along with a ban on sale of soft cheeses, even those aged more than 60 days and long allowed under FDA rules. The concern?
“AAP always stands for prevention of diseases and protecting children’s health. Therefore, banning raw milk sales could potentially have the benefit of decreased or limited access and thereby reduce risk.”
(Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. provides some detailed assessment of the AAP policy statement in comments following my previous post.)
Dr. Bhatia was more circumspect in answering my questions about whether the AAP’s new, new, old, old policy statement might somehow have been timed to come out around the same time as the CDC Minnesota study, which has clearly been in process for many months minimum.
When I asked about “how long the AAP statement was in development and planning,” Dr. Bhatia replied curtly, “Not relevant.”
To my next question, “To what extent was the AAP statement on Monday issued to coordinate with the CDC study?”, he said, “No coordination.”
No coordination, but a refusal to discuss timing of how the AAP statement came about. I suppose we are left to form our own conclusions. For example, the AAP re-statement and the CDC “study” being issued not only in quick succession, but just weeks before many state legislators go into session. And just like the CDC’s study concluded with the suggestion that states restrict raw milk access, the AAP’s final sentence is this: “Pediatricians are encouraged to advocate for more restrictive laws regarding the sale and distribution of raw milk and raw dairy products.”
You have to give the docs credit for some excellent PR acumen. They took their rigid years-old anti-raw-milk approach, dusted it off, and made it look as if it was new, and obtained wide media coverage. Their only problem may be the same as that of the CDC--a question of credibility for being so rigidly opposed when so many people are experiencing direct health benefits from raw milk.
Now we learn, yet again, that most chicken being sold at retail is tainted. Consumer Reports takes the hysterical approach in claiming that “97% of the breasts we tested harbored bacteria that could make you sick.” In point of fact, “only” about 55% harbored serious pathogens like salmonella and campylobacter (though the magazine makes reference to “E.coli” without specifying if any of it was of the O157:H7 or other dangerous variety).
Of greater concern, about half of the bacteria are resistant to at least one antibiotic. So people who get sick from pathogens in chicken may not be able to count on antibiotics to speed their recovery.
CR blames the problem in significant measure on Big Ag’s determination to produce chicken as cheaply as possible, via excessive use of antibiotics, crowding of the animals, and other measures.
And now comes word from the Marler Blog that illnesses from salmonella-tainted chicken produced by Foster Farms (you'll remember, the corporate outfit that the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused to force into a recall or a shutdown earlier this year) has passed the 400 mark.
Consumer Reports urges the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture to take action reducing the use of antibiotics in chickens and forcing the factory-style chicken producers to reduce the presence of bacteria.
I wonder if Consumer Reports, the AAP, the CDC, or anyone else will recommend restricting the availability of chicken. And I wonder if there will be any major study to track, and then use “multipliers,” to estimate how many people become sick from chicken. And, oh yes, how many fail to recover because antibiotics won’t help them. Think we’ll see one of those studies?