First, our clinic's practice is heavily Latino, dominated by Salvadoreans who have a tradition of consuming raw milk products. In fact, Salvadoreans consider yogurt made from raw milk one of the healthiest foods for young infants. My patients tell me it is usually introduced at around two or three months.
Of course, this goes against the usual recommendations for baby feeding in the US, which appears to me to be based on bowel maturity and propensity for allergies, as much as on healthy nutrition. There have been sporadic cases of bovine mycobacteria amongst Hispanic infants in our area, which is a stone's throw and a ferry ride across the Potomac from Dr. Val's stomping grounds (so much for anonymous blogs, eh?)
My classic and rigorous medical training causes me to carefully counsel my patients against the consumption of anything other than breast milk and formula for the first four months and to avoid raw milk products until they are old enough to choose for themselves. My cultural sensitivity makes me wonder if this is truly appropriate.
Yogurt, perhaps reserved for later infancy, is probably a great source of nutrition to have become an important staple in El Salvador. Culture is important to everyone who has one, and food and child-rearing are important aspects of culture. The documented number of infections in our County was 4 in 2005. Is that enough to intrude on culture and tradition, or can we just remain sensitive to the fact that these children are at risk an intervene early? I've never had to treat an infant with cow tuberculosis in their gut, but I wonder... I just wonder...
The second thought that came to my mind is about the French! No I'm not getting political... I just like French cheese. One of my favorites is Camembert from Normandy made from raw milk. Perhaps there is something in the process of making cheese that I am missing, but raw milk cheeses taste better and have been really hard to find because of the Department of Agriculture's import restrictions. I just found a really smelly cheese store nearby and I'm in heaven. The first thing I asked is if they had raw cow's milk cheese and the guy behind the counter smiled and nodded knowingly. He probably figures me for a connoisseur for asking!
Raw milk products have inherent hazards, but this isn't like eating a puffer fish prepared by a novice sushi chef.