Home Ideas TikTok Myth of the Week: Raw Milk Is Good For You

TikTok Myth of the Week: Raw Milk Is Good For You

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tiktok myth of the week raw milk is good for you

Raw milk is natural and brings you closer to the earth. It is also a great way to get sick. And best of all, it’s now a faux health hack/political football, thrown into the limelight by recent reports on bird flu. That’s right, the TikTokers are drinking raw milk out of spite—or maybe just for the affiliate marketing deals. I’ll explain. 

What is raw milk? 

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. The regular milk you buy in the grocery store is pasteurized as a basic safety measure. The milk is heated to kill bacteria; there are different ways of doing it, but the most common is to hold the milk at 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, then rapidly cool it. 

Before pasteurization was widespread, milk was frequently a carrier of disease-causing organisms, including tuberculosis, Salmonella, diphtheria, and diarrheal disease. Pasteurization is required by federal law if milk is sold across state lines, and state law requires pasteurization of most or all milk in a given state. 

Raw milk is legal in some states, although laws vary. In some, it can be sold at stores; in others, only as direct sales from farms, or only if it is labeled as pet milk, or only if you buy into a cow-share, because then you technically “own” the cow. In many states all of these are illegal.

So raw milk is a niche product, favored by some cheesemakers and some people who believe that “natural” everything is better. The FDA has counted 143 disease outbreaks linked to raw milk since 1987. Besides the illnesses mentioned above, raw milk can also carry Listeria (which can result in stillbirth if a pregnant person contracts it), and E. coli in a form that can pass from person to person after someone contracts it from drinking raw milk. 

Why is everybody talking about raw milk? 

Two things happened recently to put raw milk on the public radar. One is that there is a bird flu virus that has been going around, and it’s infecting cows as well as birds. RNA from the virus has been found in samples of grocery store milk. It’s not yet 100% clear whether pasteurization kills the virus, but people don’t seem to be getting bird flu from milk—so it’s likely that pasteurization is providing some protection. 

This news about bird flu has led to the FDA and CDC emphasizing their already-existing messaging about why it’s a bad idea to drink (or sell) raw milk, especially to vulnerable populations like children and people who may be pregnant (since raw milk can carry Listeria, among other things).

And whenever there is a simple, clear public health message, there will always be people who object to it on principle. The government is trying to take away your natural pure, (bacteria-laden) raw milk! It’s time to fight back! At least one conservative group has been selling “got raw milk?” shirts

The second news item feeding into this trend is that Louisiana’s state legislature has been debating a bill, recently passed, that would legalize sales of raw milk so long as it is labeled “not for human consumption.” People want their raw milk, germs and all.

What are the TikTokers saying about raw milk? 

As you might expect: anything that gets engagement. Often the talking points are that it is more “digestible,” contains beneficial bacteria, or that pasteurization kills the “vitamins and nutrients” in milk. 

None of this is supported by scientific consensus. Pasteurized milk has the same nutritional content as raw milk; everything is still in there, it’s just been heated. No nutrients have been removed, and you can’t “kill” vitamins or minerals. 

Beneficial bacteria can be killed by pasteurization, but killing bacteria is kind of the whole point, remember? There’s no procedure that only kills “bad” bacteria while leaving the good ones; it’s all-or-nothing. If you want probiotics in your diet, you’re best off drinking pasteurized milk and taking probiotic pills, yogurt, or other probiotic-containing foods separately. (Probiotic yogurt is made by adding known “good” bacteria to pasteurized milk.) 

They’re selling something, of course

The TikTokers are also, of course, affiliate marketing up a storm. One of the top #rawmilk videos recommended to me was of a man repeating the above claims, telling you that government and Big Pharma don’t want you to know about raw milk, and endorsing a specific farm. 

He said that he’s sure milk from this farm is safe, because they test it. So I visited the farm’s website. They mention in several places that their milk is tested for “pathogens,” but I couldn’t find any explanation of which pathogens they test for, or how. I did find the page where influencers can sign up for their affiliate program, which pays cash to a select few. Gwyneth Paltrow has publicly name-dropped the same farm, so she might be on the list. (California, where this farm is based, is one of the states that allows retail sales of raw milk.) 

So I should drink raw milk, right? 

Please do not. As the FDA points out, all the major TikTok talking points are wrong. To name a few: the enzymes in raw milk do not aid in digestibility, the bacteria found in raw milk are not the kind that is good for our digestive system, raw milk is not more nutritious, and testing programs “might help to reduce the probability of raw milk contamination but they will not ensure that raw milk is pathogen-free.” 

Source: LifeHacker.com