Henry Leber Coit, a medical doctor, was the founder of the first Medical Milk Commission and the certified milk movement, which resulted in the availability of safe raw milk from regulated dairies for physicians, their patients and the public.
In 1889, Henry Coit, MD, of Newark, New Jersey, asked the Medical Society of New Jersey to formally investigate what was considered to be an urgent, fundamental question: how do we secure clean milk for our patients and the public? Coit’s concern grew in part out of his own experience. For two years he had sought sources of good milk for his own infant son, whose mother had been unable to breast feed successfully. His search culminated in a small suburban dairyman who kept four cows and delivered milk daily to the Coit household. “An honest and industrious man, but without knowledge of hygiene, he became unwittingly a dangerous element in my family life,” Coit later said. “The factors of surety and safety for me were destroyed when, on visiting his farm, I found three cases of diphtheria in his house, and he was the patients’ caretaker for the night and the dairyman of all work during the day.”
The Society formed a committee of forty-two physicians to “inquire into the relations, if any existed, between the mortality among infants in large centers of population and the milk supply. After two years’ work, in 1891, the Milk Committee discontinued their futile efforts, having demonstrated the helplessness of ordinary measures to accomplish for the cause of pure milk what physicians require. The State Dairy Commissioner wrote, ‘Such a radical reform as you desire in the production and handling of milk may not be accomplished in our generation.’ This aroused my indignation. I then devised a plan for a professional body composed of physicians, which should first educate, then encourage, and finally endorse, the work of dairymen who would bring to us milk designed for the most exacting needs of physicians.” The plan included a legal contract the dairymen were to agree to, specifying the details about how the milk would be produced, inspected and certified.
Coit then enlisted several other physicians and together they formed the Essex County Medical Milk Commission in April, 1893. Professional dairy experts to act as consultants were selected, and the group then sought and found the first dairyman who would promise to fulfill the requirements of the contract, Stephen Francisco, of Caldwell, New Jersey. Thus was born the first Medical Milk Commission and the certified milk movement.
- The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, ND, available Fall 2003, NewTrends Publishing, Inc., (877) 707-1776,newtrendspublishing.com.
- Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.Summer 2013
Photo: Berghaus A, Nast T: Exposure of the milk trade of New York and Brooklyn/the swill milk trade. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 1858;5:358–410.