Posted by: A Part of the Solution | April 17, 2010

Raw!?! Fresh!?!

The fact of the matter is, it’s been a long time in America since it was easy to get one’s hands on certain products. Especially ‘raw’ products, and products close to their natural state. These days even raw meat isn’t all that raw. Lots of the stuff under shrink-wrap propped on styrofoam is salt-injected or brine-packed. Many people nowadays have forgotten that salt is a preservative–and that meat is thereby less raw than it might be. But that’s only the subtlest of very recent changes.

Older, such that most Americans alive right now never have had it, is the conversion of milk from raw to cooked. Pasteurization is ‘light’ cooking of products. It heats a food briefly to a temperature that nullifies any immediate bacterial activity, though it doesn’t prevent that food from eventually redeveloping significant bacteria counts. What difference does such a minimal cooking of milk bring to a product we’re taught to regard as ‘fresh’?

Well, it changes the way the fat breaks down in our bodies. It destroys the most sensitive, and useful natural vitamins. This is why milk is fortified. For the most part, the artificial vitamins reintroduced to the milk after pasteurization imitate the original spectrum of beneficial components present in the raw product. Amino acids are also taken out back and rolled by the pasteurizing process. So why is pasteurization the law? Why is selling raw milk illegal in a large number of states? Why does the USDA go after small farmers with a reputation for providing raw milk to paying customers?

Well, once upon a time milk in its natural state contributed to epidemics of tuberculosis. Once upon a time, refrigeration was not commonly available and raw milk was a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of beasties which grew up to cause food poisoning. Once upon a time, milk was thought to be so beneficial to general health that the government could not resist making it more widely available to the expanding urban population by regulating its stabilization and lengthening its shelf-life with pasteurization. All of these were good reasons in their day for making pasteurization the law of the land.

In the present, people are beginning to realize that the foods they consume may not be providing them with premium nutrients or optimal nutrition. In the twenty-first century, we’re becoming concerned at the shrinking food value of our foods. We’re learning enough chemistry to understand what we’re losing besides bacteria with pasteurization. And we’re losing a lot.

Raw is not a bad word. Raw is not an unnatural state for food to be in at its purchase point. Raw may be thought of as being equivalent to ‘whole’ and ‘fresh’. With education regarding the risks of choosing to consume raw products, there’s very little actual danger in this day and age from TB or improper refrigeration. Is it time for the government to reconsider those laws enacted in the early twentieth century for public safety? Is it time for consumers to make their will known?

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