|I never met Clifford. No one in my family alive during my lifetime ever did, save for my grandmother. But if she remembered him, if she harbored any dim, shadowy two-year-old's memories of Clifford, she never said, so far as I know. I never thought to ask her, back then, and now she's been gone for almost thirty years.
A Chinese source of the 12th century documents the use of heat to halt the fermentation of wine to preserve it for storage. Similar techniques were being used in Japan by the 16th century. By the time of the American Revolution, the scalding of milk was being employed in certain circumstances in England to help prevent disease, although the practice failed to catch on in the upstart colonies until the early 1800s. In Europe, the history of the use of heat to preserve wine and beer began in the19th century and culminated with the work of Louis Pasteur.
In 1856, after a quick rise in academia, Pasteur was recruited by a distiller to determine why his beet root alcohol would turn sour over time. Widespread belief at the time was that fermentation was a chemical reaction, but Pasteur's research demonstrated that living, microscopic organisms in yeast caused the fermentation, and that another organism, also used in vinegar production, caused it to spoil.
At the time of Pasteur's discovery, scientific knowledge was in a state of flux. Many of the old beliefs about how the world around us functioned had been demonstrated false, but a satisfactory explanation of its actual operation was proving elusive and contentious. The roots of germ theory dated back some three centuries but had never been accepted by the wider scientific community until the 1800s. While perhaps not as original as popular history has characterized them, Pasteur's findings helped clarify the role of micro-organisms in nature.
In the meantime, Emperor Napoleon III enlisted Pasteur to save France's wine industry from the "diseases of wine". In previous experiments, Pasteur had discovered that heating the fermented wine would kill the microbes that caused it to spoil. He wasn't the first to see that connection. Nicolas Appert, the inventor of in-container sterilization, also known as canning, had already shown that treating food with heat could preserve it. Pasteur's contribution was to determine the exact time and temperature that would kill the harmful microorganisms in the wine without changing its taste. He patented the process and called it pasteurization. Before long, the process was also used for beer and vinegar.
howstuffworks.com: How Pasteurization Works
I wasn't a very good farm boy. The farm chores tradition said I was supposed to enjoy, I hated. Though it ultimately would turn out I didn't have to do it very long, I disliked bringing in the cows from the pasture for milking during the short time I was periodically assigned the task around the time I was ten. It was so-o-o-o far out to the pasture and back. From the vantage point of time, I recognize now that there was no field on the farm that was more than a quarter mile from the barn, but at ten it was like a marathon.
And there were hazards. Cows shit. Lots of shit. And while a thoroughly-dried "cow patty" made what would have been considered a decidedly un-aerodynamic frisbee had there been a product called a frisbee at that time, anything less than thoroughly dried was a repulsive mess. If you weren't on high alert the entire time you were in the pasture, you ended up with cow shit in the treads of your Red Balls. If a cow lay down, she wasn't necessarily all that observant about what else might be in the vicinity. And during the winter when they were largely confined on the feedlot, there was cow shit everywhere. I learned from the times I did hand-milking that when a cow got shit on her udder I could wash it and wash it and think I had it cleaned thoroughly, but when I finished milking I'd still have an accumulation of cow shit between my fingers.
Although pasteurization techniques had started to be used on milk soon after Pasteur's discovery, the process was slow to be accepted due to the "cooked milk" flavor the process imparted to the milk. It would take the efforts of a doctor at the United States Marine Health Service, Milton Rosenau, a veteran of the campaign to bring modern sanitation and health services to Cuba during the occupation following the Spanish-American War, to overcome that objection. Serving as head of the MHS Hygienic Laboratory, he built the department from a one-man operation to a fully-staffed agency carrying out a wide range of medical research. Rosenau experimented with variations of the pasteurization process to try to produce a product palatable to the public.
In 1906, Rosenau established that low temperature, slow pasteurization (140 F [60 C] for 20 minutes) killed pathogens without spoiling the taste, thus eliminating a key obstacle to public acceptance of pasteurized milk. However, securing a safe milk supply nationwide took another generation. By 1936, pasteurized, certified milk was the standard in most large cities, although over half of all milk in the United States was still consumed raw.
CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, "Milton J. Rosenau, M.D."
|The old barn now sits deteriorating, unused. I fully expect to drive by one day and see it lying in a heap. The now-owner told his son it had outlived its usefulness, and he wasn't putting another dime into it, either to fix it up or tear it down. It's been left to Nature to take care of that.
In the days when we milked -- ours was a small operation even in its day, never more than two dozen Guernseys and Holsteins -- the milking parlor and milk-handling and storage rooms in the barn sported a thick coat of lime-based whitewash, renewed periodically. You could tell when it was approaching time to re-apply the whitewash by the buildup of fly specks. You do not run a livestock operation on a farm without attracting flies. They like your animals' shit and they leave their own in exchange. There was always some new, foolproof device or insecticide coming on the ag market purporting to cure the fly problem. None of them ever worked, as far as any of us could see. It was like trying to empty the ocean with the metaphorical teaspoon. Any surface in the barn on which a fly could alight was covered with their droppings. The pull-cords on the white porcelain light fixtures were encrusted with fly shit. It was everywhere, and at some point you had to slap on a fresh coat of whitewash and hide it.
Chicago holds the distinction of becoming, in 1908, the first city in the United States to mandate the pasteurization of milk. The story, however, is far more complex than is commonly stated in general articles on the subject.
In the 19th century, two competing theories of the spread of disease battled for supremacy. The newly-emerging field of germ theory spawned the “contagion” theory –the view that disease spread through contact that transmitted the organisms causing the disease, while the older “miasma” theory contended that disease was transmitted through pollutants in the environment. While the proponents of the two theories disagreed on the means of transmission, they found, as in the response to the Memphis yellow fever epidemic in 1878, common ground on one principle means of preventing the spread of disease – sanitation. As a result, public health officials in Chicago and elsewhere at the turn of the twentieth century were heavily biased toward hygienic solutions as they prepared to tackle the problem of outbreaks of milk-borne disease in the city.
Suspect milk quality and milk-borne disease became a political and regulatory firestorm in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1907 about one-quarter of Illinois’s milk cows produced little profit, and conditions on many dairy farms were so poor that they “tainted the reputation of the entire dairy industry”. Public health officials worried about the transmission of bovine tuberculosis from cow’s milk to humans, especially milk-fed infants, from these types of farms. They had good reason to worry, as Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode estimate that in 1900 as many as 10 percent of all cases of tuberculosis in humans could be attributed to infection from bovine tuberculosis bacilli. Moreover, an epidemic of the disease had spread throughout the Illinois countryside; state officials predicted in 1910 that 300,000 cattle had already contracted tuberculosis, and new infections remained rampant.
Alan Czaplicki, “Pure Milk is Better Than Purified Milk”: Pasteurization and Milk Purity in Chicago, 1908-1916 (Click link following - Link to PDF to right of abstract.)
(Somewhat long, but a highly recommended read – DS)
In 1908, Chicago officials began debating a plan modeled after a Milwaukee ordinance that required tuberculosis testing for all cows producing milk to be sold in Milwaukee. The milk from cows not tested, or testing positive, could be sold in the city only if pasteurized. Although Chicago already had a large-scale pasteurizing facility in place, a gift from a progressive philanthropist in 1900, the officials’ focus was not on pasteurization as a primary means on purifying milk. Unlike, for instance, France, which had embarked on mass pasteurization programs as early as 1890, pasteurization was considered only secondary to the preferable solution of sanitation and testing by Chicago officials, and evidence suggests officials intended the pasteurization in the ordinance to be only a temporary stopgap until full tuberculosis testing of all herds could be implemented. That, however, was not to be.
My memories of the “milkhouse” room in the barn are far too spacious for the area it had to have occupied, judging by the exterior dimensions of the barn as I drive by today. It held an ancient cooler, with coils caked in ice most of the time, which kept the steel cans of milk cool until the truck came around for the daily pickup and dropped off the previous day’s empties. There was storage for cleaning chemicals and spare parts for the milkers, a water heater that kept the temperature at scalding levels, a large sink where the machine milkers were washed, and a rack where the parts air-dried after washing.
There were a couple of men I remember who came around to inspect the operation periodically. One was from the Dairy Heard Improvement Association, a voluntary subscription organization that helped farmers improve their operations, and the other a representative of the dairy we sold our milk to, who came around regularly and inspected the set-up for cleanliness and sanitation and took samples of the milk, checking for e coli and brucellosis and any number of other things that could contaminate the milk they were buying from us.
The Surge Bucket Milker
The health officials who oversaw the dairy industry had resisted mechanical milkers for three decades after the first one was invented in the early 1890’s. By the time I remember, though, any resistance to the milkers had long since fallen in the face of the unstoppable avalanche of automation. Our milkers, Surge bucket milkers, which held nearly 75% of the market at the time they went off patent protection in 1955, were no doubt refined, but in basics little changed from the original model invented in the 1920s. Their great innovation that had enabled them to dominate the market was ease of cleaning. They broke apart easily into few enough easy-to-clean parts that they helped insure that farmers didn’t shirk the job of thoroughly cleaning the equipment after each milking, lessening the possibility of bacteria breeding in left-behind deposits of milk inside the equipment. Still, preparation and cleanup took nearly as much time as the actual milking.
The 1908 Chicago ordinance, because of the city’s size, affected producers in an enormous segment of the Illinois dairy market, many of whom had the ear of their local legislators. Chicago’s public health officials were straightforward about their ultimate goal of full inspection and testing of dairy producers, and many of the producers were ambivalent about the prospect. Additionally, the accepted practice when the government discovered tuberculosis-infected cows was to have the cows destroyed and the owner compensated for the loss. Because Illinois, one of the few large milk-producing states lacking any kind of tuberculosis testing program, had become something of a dumping ground for diseased milk cows, with the state health department estimating that as many as a quarter of the state’s cows might be infected, the back-of-the-envelope calculations some officials made of the cost of such a program produced some frightening figures, with some estimates exceeding the entire annual budget of the state. And the increasing utilization of railroads in transporting milk threatened to increase the territory of the Chicago “milk shed” to the point that an inspection program would become too extensive – and expensive – to manage. Powerful interests began to align against the ultimate ordinance Chicago public health officials envisioned. Their avenue to blocking the testing program was the Illinois General Assembly.
After a series of contentious committee hearings, in which tubercular testing was attacked as unreliable, costs of the program were presented as unaffordable, proponents were disparaged, and bad science was presented as fact, the foes prevailed. (There is no mention if the testing was ever characterized as an attack on “liberty”.)
Given this testimony and given that the committee had been “stacked with enemies of the tuberculin test”, it is no surprise that the committee opposed tuberculin testing of cattle. Instead, the committee opined that municipal contracts with large milk dealers and increased sanitation of milk depots would be the best way to clean Chicago’s milk supply. These actions clearly promoted the laissez-faire instincts of the state’s dairy industry. Acting on the committee’s recommendation, the state legislature passed a law in 1912 forbidding any municipality to pass a mandatory tuberculosis testing ordinance, thereby rendering the major feature of Chicago’s 1908 ordinance invalid. Tuberculin testing would for the time being no longer be Illinois’s or Chicago’s route to controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle or humans.
The Chicago health department reacted to the state legislature’s ban on tuberculin testing by issuing a new version of the ordinance in 1912. This new law reflected continued ambivalence toward pasteurization as a purification process. Establishing two grades of milk, the law required that all farms providing milk to the city be subjected to inspections for cleanliness and appropriate milk production techniques. Those farmers wanting to sell milk in the higher grade would also have to tuberculin-test their cattle voluntarily. If unwilling to do so, farmers could still sell at the lower grade if they passed basic sanitary requirements and pasteurized the milk
Alan Czaplicki, “Pure Milk is Better Than Purified Milk”: Pasteurization and Milk Purity in Chicago, 1908-1916
Chicago’s back-door implementation of tuberculosis testing was less than officials intended, but workable with the two-tier milk grading. The sanitary requirements were borrowed fairly directly from by-then-uncontroversial standards established by the American Association of Medical Milk Commissions, a philanthropic organization of medical practitioners promoting safe milk for the poor that was operating throughout the country. Pasteurization remained relegated to a secondary status, but the only avenue left for the city that could be mandated involuntarily. In short order, that ability would prove beneficial.
From 1914 to 1916 Chicago experienced a wave of epidemics that swept in from the eastern United States. Health department officials used reports of these epidemics in eastern cities as advance notice, tracing the spread of disease westward to selectively mandate full milk pasteurization in exposed areas of the milk shed. In 1914 the health department responded to a hoof-and-mouth disease epidemic by requiring “the pasteurization of all milk coming into the city from within a radius of five miles of an infected farm or premises”. Inspected milk temporarily became unavailable during this period, and pasteurization was largely credited with the fact that no humans contracted the disease. Following this success, the new Chicago health commissioner, John D. Robertson, extended the strategy during an infantile paralysis epidemic in 1916, mandating the pasteurization of all milk entering the city. The lack of deaths from these epidemics confirmed the symbolic and practical utility of pasteurization, and by March 1916 the health department reported that 99 percent of the milk entering the city was “properly pasteurized”. Several years later Robertson proclaimed that pasteurization was one of the “two foundation rocks” on which the “superstructure of disease elimination” could proceed
Alan Czaplicki, “Pure Milk is Better Than Purified Milk”: Pasteurization and Milk Purity in Chicago, 1908-1916
The end came in one of those confluences of multiple trends catching up with us. Increasingly stringent regulations no doubt played a part, as well as the potential of litigation and other factors, including the 'get big or get out' mindset that permeated twentieth-century agriculture and the bankers who financed it. But the commercial dairies themselves played perhaps the biggest role, demanding a more modern, closed system to protect the purity of the milk they were buying. They recognized the devastation an outbreak of a milk-borne disease spread by one of their products could do to their market share. The equipment upgrade was not an investment we were able to make, and the substantially lower price paid for sub-grade A milk would have made the operation a money-loser, so in 1960 we sold the herd and closed out the dairy operation, save for a single cow, Daisy, my 4-H project, which I milked for another year until the demands of impending teenagery prompted me to give her up.
Those types of abrupt, involuntary changes always breed a degree of bitterness and resentment, but in retrospect it was the right thing. We strove, as did most dairy farmers, to run a safe, sanitary operation, but in the end, in an antiquated operation like ours, there were just too many openings, too much handling, too much transferring, too many opportunities for a contamination of one sort or another to be introduced into the product. After I sold my cow, we retired the home pasteurizer and started buying our milk at the store like everyone else.
In the years between the passage of Chicago's initial ordinance in 1908 and the adoption of the 1916 pasteurization law, major cities across the country, including New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston, and San Francisco passed laws mandating pasteurization. Even though officials at the beginning of the twentieth century had preferred tuberculosis testing, the experience of Chicago and the other cities that implemented pasteurization clearly demonstrated pasteurization's ability to counter a wide range of diseases.
In 1924, the U.S. Public Health Service was approached by Alabama officials for help in drafting a sanitation and voluntary milk pasteurization program. The result, the Standard Milk Ordinance, still exists today as the Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO). The model legislation established standards for milking operations, dairies, transport and storage of milk, established grades of milk, allowing only milk that met the "Grade A" criteria defined in the standard to be sold raw. Grade A milk could also be pasteurized, and lower grades were required to be pasteurized.
By 1930, over 500 cities in the United States mandated pasteurization, and while, six years later, officials estimated about half of the milk in the U.S. was still sold raw, that would begin to change following World War II when, beginning with Michigan in 1947, states themselves began to require full pasteurization of milk, and the federal government prohibited the interstate sale of raw milk. Today, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance serves as the basis of milk safety laws in 46 of the fifty states, with the remaining four states having fundamentally similar laws. While over half still permit the intra-state sale of raw milk under certain circumstances, almost 99% of milk sold in the United States today is pasteurized.
|A week before the first day of spring in 1889, my grandmother was born in a sod house on a homestead that just half a decade before had been part of the great, open cattle ranges of the panhandle of western Nebraska. The next spring, a second child, a little boy, was born. But an idyllic, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-style childhood on their little farmstead on Pumpkin Creek was not to be. In December of that year, the entire family contracted typhoid fever and in quick succession my great-grandparents both died, leaving the two children orphans.
An aunt, grandmother's father's sister, came to their rescue, took them back to her home in eastern Nebraska, nursed them back to health, and ultimately brought them back here to Illinois to be adopted by a niece of the aunt's late husband. Their arrival was noted in a journal kept by the niece's husband, who was about to become my grandmother's adoptive father:
March 27, 1891: Aunt Jennie Roper came from Nebraska with her deceased Brother Sam Abbott's children Cora and Clifford.
Less than six months later the journal noted, in a display of nineteenth-century Baptist stoicism and mid-west farmer brevity:
September 6, 1891: Cora's brother died at 3 p.m.
September 7, 1891: Clifford Abbott was buried this afternoon.
Clifford Abbott died of cholera infantum,
a disease unheard of today. We know today it was caused by a bacterial infection of the digestive tract commonly introduced, in the age before refrigeration and proper understanding of sanitation, through milk. It commonly struck children in their second year, and occurred most frequently in the hot summer months. According to some sources it was the most feared of all the diseases that afflicted children.
The sickness of the stomach and all of the other symptoms gradually increase until vomiting becomes frightfully severe. There is very rapid emaciation and parents and friends usually give up hope of saving the little one--not knowing that the rapid emaciation is one of nature's most potent saving measures.
The bowels are filled with gas, the abdomen is very sensitive and, where there is much gas accumulation there is a rapid pulse, rapid, oppressed breathing, and a rise in temperature.
There is extreme thirst, which, alas, was and sometimes is yet, mistaken for hunger. The stools are yellow or whitish-yellow, or they may be tinged with green at the outset, becoming grass-green, with white lumps of milk curd, as the condition grows worse.
Children may die in twenty-four hours in this condition.
Herbert M. Shelton, Hygienic Care of Children, "Common Disorders Of Infants And Children: Cholera Infantum" (1931)
Today, children in the United States don't die of Cholera Infantum. Even before the development of antibiotics to effectively combat the disease following World War II, it was brought under control for the most part by the widespread implementation of milk pasteurization. In addition to cholera infantum and tuberculosis, milk was also often responsible for the spread of many cases of typhoid fever, the disease that had killed my great-grandparents, as well as scarlet fever, undulant fever, septic sore throat, diphtheria, and a myriad of diarrheal diseases. A century ago, these diseases were a deadly threat to the public. Today, they have been rendered almost non-existent in our country, thanks to regulations requiring the pasteurization of milk.
The milk sanitation program of the United States Public Health Service is one of its oldest and most respected activities. The interest of the Public Health Service in milk sanitation stems from two important public health considerations. First, of all foods, none surpasses milk as a single source of those dietary elements needed for the maintenance of proper health, especially in children and older citizens. For this reason, the Service has for many years promoted increased milk consumption. Second, milk has a potential to serve as a vehicle of disease and has, in the past, been associated with disease outbreaks of major proportions. The incidence of milkborne illness in the United States has been sharply reduced in recent years. In 1938, milkborne outbreaks constituted twenty-five percent (25%) of all disease outbreaks due to infected foods and contaminated water. Our most recent information reveals that milk and fluid milk products continue to be associated with less than one percent (<1%) of such reported outbreaks.
DHHS/PHS/FDA: Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (2001 Edition)(PDF) (Link follows)
The time has long passed when the disease that killed little Clifford was a major scourge of children in the United States. Most Americans today would only respond with a baffled look if asked about it. There is, however, on the shelves of every grocery store and pharmacy in the country, an echo of those awful days.
The medicine we now call Pepto-Bismol was originally developed at the start of the 20th century, when high standards of hygiene and sanitation weren't as widespread as today. Looking to cure a frightening disease called "cholera infantum," which struck infants suddenly, causing severe diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes death, a doctor concocted a formula in his home that proved effective against these symptoms. The formula was made from pepsin, zinc salts, salol, and oil of wintergreen, along with a colorant to make it pink, and he called it Mixture Cholera Infantum.
Proctor & Gamble: The History of Pepto-Bismol
And that, dear Kossacks, is where regulation comes from -- not from bored bureaucrats sitting in an office in Washington trying to think up ways to make life miserable and expensive for some innocent and unsuspecting businessman, but from real human suffering and tragedy brought about, all too often, by people who shirk what should be obvious responsibilities, who neglect basic diligence, who sacrifice safety for profit. They bring suffering on those who trust them and their products, and society adopts measures to make sure it never happens again. We have to force them, through regulation, to behave as they should have been behaving all along. That's how regulation came to be.
Previous installments of How Regulation came to be: