Daniel Boone, Yogi Berra, the Tsunami, and Raw Milk

By Ward, Thomas R. | Journal of Environmental Health, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Daniel Boone, Yogi Berra, the Tsunami, and Raw Milk


Ward, Thomas R., Journal of Environmental Health


"This is like deja vu all over again."
Yogi Berra

Daniel Boone was said to have an i-credible ability to travel for hundreds of miles through dense forest and be able to remember exactly how to return to a particular point. He generally knew where he had been, how he got there, and how to get back to where he needed to be. We sometimes get too immersed in our work in environmental health to remember how we got where we are and how to get where we need to be.

On December 26, 2004, an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami that killed almost 250,000 people and displaced millions more. We all watched the tourist videos of the ocean receding and people moving forward to explore the bare seabed, only to be engulfed by the fast moving waves that seemed to have no end. The impact on Indonesian population centers was numbing. Days later, investigations were made of some of the remote islands populated by people who rarely came into contact with the outside world and lived without any of the technology that we feel is essential to our well-being. It was feared that the inhabitants of the Andamans islands would have perished in the face of such a massive natural disaster. Anthropologists were astonished to find that these tribal people had survived. They discovered that the elders of the tribes remembered the oral traditions of what happened when the ocean suddenly receded. The experiences of those long-lost ancestors told them that they needed to get to higher ground immediately. In other words, their history gave them relevant insight to deal effectively with a difficult situation in today's world.

We would do well to remember the wisdom of those who preceded us in environmental and public health. When I entered the field of environmental health almost 40 years ago, I took the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Study Course 3010 G, an introduction to the important matters involved in my new profession. Milk sanitation was a part of that course, and I had the opportunity to travel with milk sanitarians as they visited dairy farms. We followed the milk from the cow to the barn, from the storage tank to the truck, and then to the processor. At the processor, it was filtered, pasteurized, and processed into the milk for my cereal and the ice cream for my dessert. I learned about the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) and all of the illnesses that used to be associated with the consumption of raw milk.

Therefore, it was a surprise to learn recently that a legislator in my home state of North Carolina had introduced a bill in the General Assembly which would allow individuals to purchase raw milk directly from a producer through an arrangement known as "cow share." This bill would allow an individual to purchase a portion of the raw milk produced by a dairy cow. North Carolina environmental health officials at the state level requested that NEHA support them in their opposition to this bill. In discussing this matter at the NEHA board meeting just prior to the AEC in Atlantic City, it became apparent that similar legislation was being introduced in state legislatures across the country. In North Carolina's case, an individual who was an advocate of natural food was able to convince a legislator to introduce the "Cow Share Bill." North Carolina health officials were united in their opposition to this bill, especially in light of a Listeria outbreak in 2002 caused by soft Mexican-style cheese made from raw milk. The outbreak resulted in several pregnant women having spontaneous abortions, as well as the hospitalization of several women and infants. …

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