CHEESE 2001 – The advantages of raw milk

23 Sep 2001

For some time this question has been the subject of reflection by eminent scientists (mostly Swiss), and the best thing would certainly be to allow them to speak and to give to them the means to continue to advance their research. However, there is one reason to defend raw milk that I would like to emphasize, and I speak of a fundamental reason: consumer demand.
It is extraordinary, actually, that despite the alarmist discussions and the diffusion of fears that are more or less grounded, general surveys of opinion show that the consumer refuses to be frightened by the hygienic threats of which the target is raw milk cheese. On the contrary, raw milk cheeses are actively defended and supported by an ample majority. In fact, 80% of consumers consider raw milk cheeses of low risk to their health and ask simply that there be more rigor in the production of quality as away of exorcising every risk. In sum, they are asking for still more attention to milk quality.

We must not misunderstand: the ever-increasing respect for products tied to the territory of production on the part of the consumer – be they French, Italian, Swiss or of any other nationality – does not only represent a search for authenticity but also for the pleasure of taste. This is shown as well by the realization of the danger that not eating a balanced quantity of raw and cooked foods presents to one’s own health. People also understand, for visible reasons, that it is important to keep at least a certain percentage of their diet raw – and I refer not only to raw milk but to all types of raw food.

We must recognize the sector of production dedicated to fermented milk as the pioneer in the defense of a living product, as we must recognize Slow Food for its dedication to the sector of cheese. Around the world, we see an ever increasing number of people who believe in these ideas.
All said, the arguments made today in defense of raw milk concern the refusal of uniformity and homogeneity of taste and the claiming of rights to the cultural and food heritage – and Imean food heritage in a sense wider than the simple nutritional one.
If much has been said and shown today that reflects the gustatory and sensory qualities of raw-milk foods, we know less with regard to the role played by the natural flora of the milk. We also know very little about the role of this flora in the body and its positive benefits on health. Indissolvably linked to the territory it represents, flora are the true ‘brand’ that distinguish a cheese.

To stimulate the undertaking and programming of research
Today, more than ever, it is possible to ascertain that man is truly what he eats, and that his rapport with food becomes the fundamental dimension in health care.
In this regard, the contribution of raw milk represents, without doubt, an essential course that must be developed.
But there is still so much to do and we must arrive first!
The press has been the first to denounce a type of hygienic and technocratic conspiracy that would happily reduce raw milk cheeses as curious folk-lore to be shelved with other anachronistic traditions.
However, there are many of us – those for whom the pleasure of the table and health are closely linked – who think that the bounty and good of milk must not be considered only in relation to its technological function and taste, but also take into consideration its pro-biotic qualities.
We hope to show that raw milk products have various interesting characteristics that may have an effect on the immune system or on the flora and bacteria present in the human digestive system.

In this respect, has it not been clear already for some time that raw milk products have various positive merits, and are even considered curative and preventive?
Therefore, we must formulate the questions that we intend to propose to organizations that conduct research for the public, seek contacts in the medical community and find the necessary financing both in the public and private sector. In this way we can form a group that can – in the noblest sense of the term – exert critical pressure.
It is with this spirit, that we are now dedicating ourselves to the construction of a federation for the DOC cheeses made from French milk, designed ultimately to be part of an inter-European organization.

André Valadier is the vice-president of INAO – Institut National Appellations d’Origine – and president of the Commission Agricole et Agroalimentaire du Midi-Pyrénées.

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