[Sca-cooks] Raw Milk (warning: rant)

edoard at medievalcookery.com edoard at medievalcookery.com
Fri Jun 11 06:42:11 PDT 2010

Ok, I've heard a lot of misinformation spread here recently about
disease and immunity, and I feel I must respond.  Please note that I am
not picking on any person - what I am picking on are specific *ideas*
which are not supported by reality.

1.  Lack of exposure to bacteria has caused people to be more
susceptible to disease. 

This concept stems from a misunderstanding of how the immune system
works.  It is not like a muscle, which atrophies when unused.  A better
model is that of a factory where first aid supplies are manufactured at
a set rate.  If there is no demand for supplies then the shipping dock
is filled to capacity until demand occurs.  Too many demands means that
supplies will be depleted and the factory can't keep up.

It is pretty trivial to show that higher levels of bacterial exposure
does not lead to lower death rates, and should be clear to anyone who
has compared life expectancy and infant mortality in the middle ages to
that of our modern society.  Diseases like "the bloody flux" are
mentioned almost casually in medieval sources - where people of all ages
died from bloody diarrhea.  Even 50 years ago people were being killed
by what are now considered minor illness (my father almost died as a
child from scarlet fever - which is now known as a bad strep infection).

2.  The level of bacterial (and viral) exposure in modern society has
*not* declined.  

If anything, we're exposed to far more bacteria now than ever before due
to the higher population density.  Children in schools share all sorts
of diseases, as do adults who work in office environments.

The reduction in deaths from disease in the past century or so has come
from modern sanitation practices and antibiotics.

3.  The antibiotics used in hand soaps are not the same type of stuff as
the antibiotics used in medicines.

Bacteria can not become immune to substances like triclosan or alcohol
any more than they can become immune to temperatures over 212 degrees F.
 Immunity isn't the problem with the overuse of those chemicals, rather
that overuse causes an increase in environmental pollution along with
drying and irritation of the skin (which can cause cracking and allow
freshly contacted bacteria to enter the body).  Washing with regular
soap and water has been shown to be just as effective at reducing
bacterial load.

4.  The fact that a given person hasn't yet become ill from eating
something doctors recommend against does not mean it's safe.

The perceived safety is a logical fallacy - the belief that because
something hasn't happened, it can't happen.  A clear illustration of
this fallacy is seen in a statement like "I drive drunk all the time and
I haven't been in an accident."

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