Through freedom of information requests, it has been revealed that British Columbia's current Minister of Health, the Honourable Adrian Dix, and all the Ministers of Health that precede him going back to Minister George Abbott in 2008, have not received complete and updated briefing notes on the topic of unpasteurized milk - FOR TEN YEARS.
Content Analysis of Briefing Notes to Ministers of Health
on the Topic of Raw Milk - 2008 to 2018
The following analysis shows that briefing notes to the Ministers of Health on the topic of unpasteurized milk have not been updated in 10 years.
You can download a PDF file of the above table plus all original briefing notes (source: "Raw Milk Policy") here:
Let's explore one statement recycled through 10 years of briefing notes: "there is no scientific or other credible evidence that unpasteurized milk produces any measurable health benefits over pasteurized dairy products." Many scientific studies conclude that raw milk has measurable health benefits over pasteurized milk:
The Health Benefits of Raw Milk:
Below is a download of the ten page summary document listing 42 of these articles, entitled Peer-Reviewed Scientific Studies Demonstrating Health Benefits of Unprocessed Milk, 2001-2018. A binder containing printed copies of this document and all of these articles was given to Government by the BC Herdshare Association in February 2018.
But of these 42 studies, 10 were published prior to the first briefing note (2008). Are Ministry staff deliberately withholding this information? The public wants to know.
Regarding raw milk safety, Ministry staff mention outbreaks and disease numerous times, but neglect to mention the Raw Milk Institute's training program that teaches farmers how to prevent outbreaks by producing clean milk. Ministry staff know about the Raw Milk Institute -- consumers have provided them with mountains of information about it over the years.
They neglect to tell the Minister about the B.C. Fresh Milk Project and the evidence it is producing that raw milk can be produced pathogen-free by using RAWMI training, despite having received copies of the test results as far back as 2015 and regularly since then. Also in 2016, which is when members of my livestock owner group provided this information to government, including to at least three MLAs.
They neglect to mention that people in 43 U.S. states and also England, Wales, New Zealand, France, Germany and many other European nations enjoy legal raw milk and it is not a public health disaster.
Substantiated, factual information that is crucial to have in order to set honest public health policy is not being received by our Minister of Health. As an example, consumers across the province have repeatedly provided scientifically-proven information about raw milk safety to many MLAs and other Government officials. This includes laboratory evidence from the BC Fresh Milk Project proving that there are two types of raw milk: one for the pasteurizer and one for the people. This really says it all:
These omissions cause one to seriously wonder if Minister Dix will ever actually see this unbiased, independent and important new study recently published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
Recent Trends in Unpasteurized Fluid Milk Outbreaks, Legalization, and Consumption in the United States.
Recent Trends… covers recent CDC data (2005 through 2016), with comparison to legal status and estimates of consumption based on state licensing records. This study finds that the risk of illness from raw milk is ‘small but real’ (not zero risk, as for any food), and that as access to raw milk has increased in the US, outbreak numbers and rates have not increased, but have in reality DECREASED!
Evidence is cited that on-farm safety training programs may be behind the reduced outbreak rates in the US. Perhaps most importantly, given our current and disastrous epidemic of chronic illness, especially in children, this study cites an extensive body of evidence underscoring the significant public health benefits of raw milk, protection against infectious and non-communicable diseases, and enhanced immune function.
This study makes it abundantly clear that prohibition-based policies around raw milk which focus solely on minimizing risk are missing the critical point of raw milk's unique health benefits, at a time when they are desperately needed.
Why do we have obsolete and ineffective raw milk laws in BC? Will a study of this importance even see the light of day in our Minister of Health's office?
A Public Policy Problem
Why do we have obsolete and ineffective raw milk laws in BC? Maybe because policy analysts in a government ministry are considered to be the “subject matter experts” and Ministers rely on them to provide expert advice. But in practice, they filter the information which the Minister receives. If a policy analyst has a personal agenda to see a Minister make a certain decision, all they need to do is to ensure that the Minister never hears an alternative point of view, or that they sufficiently discredit other viewpoints. Policy departments are the hidden power in government, wielding power over elected Ministers, and ensuring that new governments carry on the agendas of the old ones by providing the same advice over and over again. This is not good government.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Kindly let your MLA and Premier John Horgan's office know that our elected officials are letting the citizens of BC down by not ensuring that open, honest, and complete briefings about the safety and health benefits of raw milk are delivered by staff to the Minister of Health. Ask for follow-up which shows that the long-standing practice of keeping BC's Ministers of Health in the dark about raw milk is immediately stopped.
Let's get raw milk legalized in B.C. so that no farm needs to stay "underground" for fear of being prosecuted by health authorities. Please write to Health Minister Adrian Dix and ask him to legalize raw milk in BC by removing clause 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation or amending it to exempt certified micro-dairy herdshares (in 2015, Ministry staff said that this second option might be possible).
Ask your MLA for their support and to ask on your behalf that Minister Dix change the law - that's their job. Tell them there is at least 10 years worth of evidence that they may not have seen, including this study that demolishes the US Center for Disease Control's claim that legalization will lead to more outbreaks. Reference in the study in your letter: Recent Trends in Unpasteurized Fluid Milk Outbreaks, Legalization, and Consumption in the United States. It reveals with undeniably strong evidence that raw milk is a safe and healthy food that should be widely available to anyone in BC who chooses to consume it. Thank you!
Please consider joining the group that is helping to put consumers who are looking for raw milk in contact with grass-fed micro-dairy farms across our province:
For more information on the safety and health benefits of clean and fresh raw milk see:
Linda Morken, WAPFTM Volunteer Chapter Leader in Sooke, British Columbia, Canada