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Tom Palchak – Food Scientist and Manager of Penn State’s Berkey Creamery (Part 2 of 2)

By Admin | July 17, 2008

What is your take on the position of some very reputable scientists that pasteurization and processing of milk is actually detrimental to human health?

To be blunt, my position is one of deep concern.

Let’s be clear, milk sustains life and promotes growth in humans. Recently criticism of pasteurized milk has become a sort of a fetish with activist groups and well meaning but misinformed “scientists” who will say anything to further their cause or agenda.

Milk should not be used for political or cultural agendas because this activism shows no concern whatsoever for the livelihoods and public health interests of millions of Americans.

Heating food as a means of preserving it has been going on for thousands of years. It is no accident or coincidence our ancestors observed the beneficial effects of heat and undoubtedly resorted to cooking or boiling milk for ages, long before any scientist documented such a practice.

Since 1900 there have been numerous university, public health, and medical studies which unequivocally show demonstrated reduction in both mortality and incidence of milk borne illness when pasteurized milk is consumed. There is an undisputed benefit to heating milk for microbial destruction.

From a public health position pasteurized milk kills pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and E. coli. All of these organisms may be present in raw milk. Ingesting E. coli 0157H from contaminated raw milk can lead to severe sickness, diarrhea, kidney failure and even death.

Additionally, tuberculosis and brucellosis in cattle can be transmitted to humans via consumption of raw milk, another reason I discourage consuming it.

Do the raw milk producers have safety data to back up their claims?

Presently, the second largest raw milk producer/dealer in the United States has lost their permit because of a severe outbreak of food borne illness in which 29 families have been affected.

In addition, the largest raw milk producer/dealer is currently facing two lawsuits from parents whose children were hospitalized due to consumption of raw milk that was severely contaminated.

“Buyer beware” may be fine for a used car but it has no place in the milk industry, especially where children and the elderly are concerned.

We have cooked food for over ten thousand years to improve its quality, taste, and for preservation. We have pasteurized milk for over a century for the same purpose.

It is a complete disservice to our citizens to purport healthful benefits of raw milk.
A very vocal minority think raw milk contains magical or medicinal properties not unlike potions from the middle ages.

They are indifferent to a century of modern dairy research in the area of public health.These activists are anxious to destroy milk’s favorable and positive image with scare implications that have been revised and outright rejected over time.

The milking parlor environment is completely contaminated with fecal matter and urine. Keep this image in your mind the next time you contemplate purchasing raw milk for your children. My advice, don’t drink it, ever!

Does Pennsylvania have cow-sharing programs that allow the public to obtain non-pasteurized milk?

Pennsylvania does not have a cow-sharing program. Farmers are allowed to sell raw milk and raw milk cheese that has been cured over 60 days, provided the farms in question have proper permits and are rigorously inspected and the milk thoroughly tested. Most states do not permit the sale of raw milk.

What is your take on the position of many dieticians that ice cream should be avoided as it is full of fat and sugar?

I do not completely agree.

Ice cream does contain fat and sugar and consuming them in large quantities should be avoided – no disagreement there. Overeating any food can be harmful if it leads to nutrient deficiencies found in other foods being left out of the diet or from nutrient excesses due to over consumption.

Let’s not forget ice cream is a dessert, a treat, a snack and consuming moderate amounts of one to three servings a week is fine for most people. I would advocate avoiding overindulgence, not avoidance of ice cream entirely.

Ingredients such as milk fat and sugar are key components in high quality ice cream and are germane to any ice cream of superior quality.

Sugar is the primary flavoring material in ice cream as well as an important adjunct necessary for body and texture. Milk fat imparts a flavor all its own and more importantly provides the customary level of smoothness and creaminess we’ve come to expect in this dessert.

Milk fat also satiates the appetite and can be an important source of energy when consumed in moderation. My comment to all-or-nothing dieticians is to lighten up a bit.


What is your vision for the Creamery in the next 5-10 years?

We just moved in to a brand new facility and at least initially my plans are to just maintain course and speed.

After we’ve been here awhile I would like to pursue other areas of interest with-in our department and college. There are many ways we can support the mission of Food Science here at Penn State and my plan is for the Creamery to be an important component of Food Science for the foreseeable future.

What is one little-known fun fact about ice cream?

Our fourth president James Madison loved ice cream. Madison’s wife, Dolly, routinely served ice cream in the White House but she created a sensation when she combined strawberries from their garden with vanilla ice cream and served this at her husband’s second inaugural ball. The rest is history

Who was Berkey? How did that name come to associated with the creamery?

Earl and Jeanne Berkey donated three million dollars to Penn State during the fund raising period for our as yet unnamed Creamery dairy plant and salesroom. Their generosity enabled the building project to move forward and the Creamery was named in their honor.

Copright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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