The Queen Mother: The controversial drink that led royal to age 101

Scottish TikToker wins 'lumpy' oat milk war with Lidl

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After a collection of amusing anecdotes concerning the Queen Mother was published in the Guardian, author Thomas Blaikie started to gather together a compendium of stories never published before which brought a glimpse into the lives of the royal family. His book What A Thing to Say to the Queen: A collection of royal anecdotes from the House of Windsor, was met with praise, with readers intrigued as to his suggestion as to why the Queen Mother fared so well in old age.

Within the book Blaikie wrote: “The Queen Mother drank raw milk every morning. Hence her long life, possibly.”

In addition to this, an article published by MailOnline revealed more details about the Queen Mother and her daily tipple. It reported: “The late Queen Mother was said to be a huge fan, insisting on raw milk from the Ayrshire cows of the royal herd at Windsor.”

Despite this speculation, the controversy surrounding the benefits and indeed risks of drinking raw milk has been ongoing for many years. Raw milk, defined by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is milk that has not been pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria.

The pasteurisation process of milk was developed in the early to mid 1900s. According to Healthline, this process involves heating milk in order to not only kill bacteria, but also yeasts and mould. It also increases the product’s shelf life. The most common method – used all over the world, including the UK, US, Australia and Canada – involves heating raw milk to 72°C for 15 to 40 seconds.

The CDC remains certain that those who choose to drink raw milk have often found either themselves or loved ones sick, ending up in hospital for several weeks at a time.

In fact, the medical body goes on to say that individuals often develop infections caused by the germs left in the product. Symptoms that can reportedly be caused by drinking raw milk includes:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Vomiting.

On a more serious note, the CDC explains that some individuals who have also drank raw milk have developed severe or even life-threatening diseases including Guillain-Barré syndrome or hemolytic uremic syndrome – severe diseases that can potentially cause:

  • Paralysis
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Death.

In addition, various cases in the US back in the early 2010s of E.coli were reported by Scientific American, a bacteria that was traced back to raw cow’s milk from a local dairy in Minnesota, USA.

Cases such as these led to some American states banning the sale of raw milk, while other states implemented a need for a special licence to sell the product. However, in complete contrast to these reports, there are also many individuals who support and actively drink raw milk due to the various health benefits it reportedly possesses.

Supporters of the raw product say it is rich in many nutrients which are removed when milk is treated. Advocates also believe it to be a healthy solution for those who are lactose intolerant, as it contains a lactose-digesting bacteria.

One key group of advocates for raw milk is the Raw Milk Institute, who compare the product to breast milk and boast about the “wide variety” of essential nutrients, fats, protein, anti-inflammatory and digestive enzymes and minerals in the milk.

Dr Joe Heckman of Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, is one individual who has published a peer-reviewed article covering 150 years of the history of modern raw milk.

Dr Heckman makes note of various studies conducted in the EU that have reportedly discovered the effective reduction of colds and ear infections by 30 percent. One of these studies was published in May 2007. The study included 14,893 children aged between five and 13 years old from five different European countries.

After filling in a detailed questionnaire including a dietary component and allergy information, the effect of drinking raw milk and pasteurised milk on asthma and allergies was measured. Results from the study concluded that consumption of raw milk, or “farm milk” as they referred to it, offered protection against asthma and allergies.

However, despite the findings, the study warned: “At this stage, consumption of raw farm milk cannot be recommended as a preventive measure.”

Another study carried out in England, back in 2006, measured a similar pattern. In a sample of 879 children, all underwent skin prick testing – a test which checks for immediate allergic reactions to as many as 50 substances at once – in addition, the parents of 4,767 children were given a detailed questionnaire on their children’s diet, allergies and farming exposure. Results showed that unpasteurised milk consumption was the element that protected children from allergies, regardless of the amount of time they had spent on a farm.

In light of all these studies and regardless of controversy, The Raw Milk Institute remains certain that numerous studies have shown that raw milk is correlated with the following health benefits:

  • Easier digestion
  • Stronger immune system
  • Fewer ear infections
  • Fewer allergies
  • Reduced eczema
  • Reduced asthma
  • Less fever and respiratory infections
  • Improved gut health
  • Improved lung function.

However, for all the studies suggesting the benefits of raw milk consumption on longevity and warding off certain infections and conditions, there are also studies to counteract these claims. In 2017, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warned of the dangers of consuming raw milk, especially if people have a weakened immune system.

Interestingly however, current guidelines on the FSA website state: “The sale of raw drinking milk is legal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It can only be sold directly to the consumer by:

  • Registered milk production farms at the farm gate or farmhouse catering operation
  • Farmers at registered farmers’ markets
  • Distributors using a vehicle as a shop such as a milk round
  • Direct online sales
  • Vending machines at the farm.

In order to protect the health of those who choose to drink raw milk, sellers have to ensure that their animals are healthy and free from tuberculosis and other disease, and farms have to comply with hygiene rules and have a farm inspection by Public Health England twice a year, which also includes verification sampling. Sales of raw milk and cream remain completely banned in Scotland.

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