|By Robert Cohen Executive Director|
TUBERCULOSIS IN CALIFORNIA MILK
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is doing all that it can to keep you from learning one very big California's secret. Tuberculosis in dairy cows. Are you next? USDA's mission is to protect the dairy industry, not your health. This is not a pleasant little family farm story, folks. This is about just one factory farm, and the monstrous potential that gigantic dairy operations hold for spreading disease. During 2002, a herd of 3,000 dairy cows was quarantined in Tulare county, California. Hundreds of cows had to be destroyed after diseased animals were sent to slaughterhouses for human consumption. One vigilant inspector discovered traces of tuberculosis in meat destined for somebody's refrigerator. The carcass from that once gentle creature was covered with horrible lesions. The dairy farmers knew. The driver of the truck knew. The slaughterhouse workers knew. Nobody was about to reveal the secret. It took one brave individual to buck the system. USDA officials initially refused to release the name of the farm, citing biosecurity concerns. Can humans catch tuberculosis after drinking milk or eating flesh from diseased cows? Do you eat cheese? Many cheeses are made from unpasteurized milk. Do you enjoy your steak medium-rare? In 1988, The Journal of Dairy Science (volume 71) revealed: "Many diseases such as tuberculosis are transmissible by milk products." Sixty-five years ago, the Journal of Dairy Science (19:435, 1936) reported: "Infected raw milk is the chief means by which milk-borne tuberculosis is transmitted to man." Not much progress was made during the next two decades. In 1959, the United States had nearly one-half of today's population. The average salary was $2,992. Many things were different then. On March 10, 1959, Hoard's Dairyman reported: "Researchers and regulatory authorities were meeting to halt the rise and spread of tuberculosis from cows to humans, and to bring incidence to eradication levels." So long ago. Sadly, things remain the same. In 1970, the National Mastitis Council announced: "Some strains of mycobacteria, similar to those that are associated with tuberculosis, have been found to survive pasteurization." One of the most well-respected dairy reference books is Lincoln Lampert's Modern Dairy Products. Here is an excerpt from the third edition: "A cow with pulmonary tuberculoses may swallow her own saliva and this, with the infected material coughed up from the lungs, then passes through the whole digestive tract, and remains as an active form of infection. Particles of infected dust or manure may contaminate the milk, or it may be infected directly from the tubercular udder." Today, California citizens may drink milk from cows infected with tuberculosis. Tomorrow, people in Chicago and Detroit and New York and Miami may eat the aged cheeses from milk taken from those same cows. Roll the dice. Cut the deck, low card wins. Spin the roulette wheel. Russian roulette. Name your game. It's a gamble, and the odds will eat you up.
Robert Cohen author of: MILK A-Z
Executive Director (email@example.com)
Dairy Education Board
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