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The current state of health monitoring in France: a look back at the Raw Milk 2023 conference

[News from the members] ANPLF, France

Following the FaceNetwork 2023 congress held in Switzerland on the theme of raw milk, an opportunity to discuss microbiology and risk management, we’d like to focus on the case of France, and more specifically on two presentations given at the second edition of the “Raw Milk Symposium”, held on November 16 and 17 in Aurillac, in the Massif Central region of France. The key words of this session : diversity and a global approach, reflecting the representants present around the table.

For those who speak French, the full broadcast of the presentations and discussions is available online on youtube.

Ethnology & Health monitoring of farmhouse dairy makers

Mathilde Lagrola took a closer look at farming practices, sharing some of the results of her thesis entitled cheese under surveillance in two French regions. Her work, initiated in a context of increasing controls and standards in the farming profession and declining microbial biodiversity in cheeses, aimed to describe the sanitary culture of producers, producer associations and control bodies alike. On the farmers’ side, she highlighted the importance of technical and sensitive knowledge, which she defined as follows :

“What is implemented, beyond hygiene, beyond these quantified practices, is vigilance. In other words, we go back and forth between moments when we perceive clues and moments when we measure. These clues, specific to each farm, are developed by professionals thanks to their intimate knowledge of their herd, their production and their reflexive awareness of the gestures needed to avoid contact between dirty and clean surfaces”.

In the future, this research may well make it possible to propose that farmhouse and artisan dairy makers’ control policies take account of this specific knowledge, which is linked to the care taken from the meadow to the plate.

Raw milk: benefits and risks

The first results of the “White Book” showing the benefits and risks of consuming cheeses rich in microbial biodiversity were presented. This work, followed by our association and other representatives of the dairy industry professions within the Raw Milk Foundation, is a bibliographical synthesis including research into the effects of dairy product consumption on

(1) the microbiota,
(2) allergic and atopic diseases,
(3) cardio-neurovascular diseases,
(4) the digestive system and immune system regulation,
(5) infectious diseases,
(6) cancers,
(7) neurological diseases and mental well-being.

This work will make it possible to temper the labelling imposed by French public authorities and adopted by the dairy industry in 2020, advising against the consumption of raw milk products by fragile populations such as pregnant women and children aged from 0 to 5 years old.

Among the results highlighted during the presentations :

  • A downward review of the risk of cardio-neurovascular disease linked to the presence of sodium and saturated fatty acids in cheese, sometimes contradicted by recent meta-analyses including the complexity of elements present in cheese and showing, for example, a reduced risk of stroke.
  • The beneficial effect of proximity to the farm environment in limiting the onset of atopic diseases, and also of the consumption of raw milk by mothers and children as additional protection against rhinitis or otitis, infectious diseases of early childhood. The studiy Pasture identify substances, destroyed by heat treatment and present in raw milk, identified as responsible for protection against these diseases, as for example certain whey proteins.
Charlotte Gohier, December 11, 2023  –  14 December 2023