We’re Going To Sterilize Ourselves To Death – for Sep. 6, 2010

Never mind nuclear weapons or natural disasters, I believe the greatest threat to civilization as we know it today is hand sanitizers.

Yes, those handy little pump dispensers we see on just about every office counter and public washroom wall, will be the death of us. We will pursue this winless war against germs and bacteria, until the process of natural selection creates this unstoppable superbug that will come down on mankind like a 50 pound fly swatter, making The Great Influenza of 1918, which killed 100 million people, look not much worse than tummy cramps after a block party.

I don’t know if it is the collective knowledge of microbiologists, or the marketing division of Purell, but somewhere along the line society has convinced itself, if we see a germ we have to kill it — at least kill 99.9 per cent of them. Great idea, but I think it is the .1 per cent that we really have to watch out for.

If they can cram 10 billion Bifidus regularis bacteria into a two ounce yogurt serving and that is supposed to help my oversized “temple” poop better in the morning — and those are the good guys — I can just imagine what kind of assault the .1 per cent “survivors” on the bad side are amassing in the global reservoir.

Personally I am not at war with germs. They can come and go through my system as they need to. My body is an expressway for multicultural, non-denominational, microbial transportation — no lights, no tolls, no restrictions, enjoy the visit, come again. But what has got me on this rant is a recent story in the always-informative Western Producerdescribing how B. C. dairy producer Alice Jongerden was up to her boot tops in legal crap because she was selling whole, fresh milk, off the farm to people. (Why they didn’t have that woman manacled to a wall in the same cell block as Clifford Olson, I don’t know. Obviously, Alice has no conscience and the law is just gutless).

Yes, here was a woman with 21 dairy cows selling milk to neighbours and other people in the Chilliwack area. Alice’s crime against humanity was the practice of selling raw, unpasteurized milk. What really got me, was the B. C. Supreme Court, in a ruling against her indiscriminate milk trafficking, calling raw milk “a health hazard.”

Well, I grew up on a dairy farm, and granted that is probably before most bacteria was invented, but I, my family, our neighbours on the 7th Concession, most rural folk in Dundas County, most of the non-urban population of Ontario and the rest of Canada at that time — we all drank raw, unpasteurized milk. And I dare venture that several hundred generations before us, all drank raw, unpasteurized milk. And I am here to tell you that I feel pretty good today.

I know now (not then), but apparently some nasty organisms can get into poorly handled or stored milk. But, holy smokes if we want to talk about health hazards in the real world…! Roaring up the face of a pregnant avalanche chute, with a 600 horsepower snow machine, revving away at 300 decibels, with 200 people standing at the bottom of the chute — now that can be hazardous to your health. Sitting in a bar, getting plastered on straight rye, six nights a week — that can be hazardous to your health. Laying on a couch with a bag of kettle cooked potato chips and a can of Coke as a regular evening snack — that can be hazardous to your health. Eating fries and burgers at a fast food restaurant three times a day for a few years, without a lick of physical exercise — that can be hazardous to your health. And this list could go on. Funny thing is they are all very real, documented health hazards, but they are all quite legal.

In my unschooled view, the risk of dying from drinking raw milk must be so low that it doesn’t even register on the cause-of-death pie chart. On our farm all we used was a jug of Javex mixed with water to sanitize milking equipment. And before milk can and bulk coolers were invented, the eight gallon cans of milk from the evening milking were put into a galvanized stock tank, which was filled with cold well water and that kept it cooled until the milk truck arrived in the morning. There was no skull and crossbones warning labels on those cans.

And I believe milking sanitation and milk storage has come a long way since those days. I would guess that unless Alice Jongerden is rinsing her barn boots in the pail of milk she is selling, there isn’t the tiniest risk there is anything wrong with it.

What is wrong is society’s hyper-preoccupation with germ killing. I am not against pasteurized milk. It makes good sense, and for the vast majority of consumers access to raw milk isn’t even an option. But if some health nut, or old farm boy like me wants it, they should be able to buy it. People need to get a few bazillion bugs in their system, and then they can better handle whatever nature dishes out.

Today I plan to avoid standing at the bottom of an avalanche chute, but I seem to recall I left a chicken salad sandwich in the back seat of my truck a few days ago. I better go feed the few billion bacteria friends I’m hosting. If they’re happy, I’m happy.

LeeHartiseditorofCattlemen’sCornerand enjoysgoodguthealth.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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