(WTVM) - If you are contemplating a back-to-nature diet, raw milk is one item to leave off the list. One Auburn family has a first-hand experience with the devastating consequences of raw milk.
Lindsey Middleton's grandfather, Gus Buttram, was a star athlete in north Alabama in 1930.
At the age of 17, Buttram collapsed on the football field, leaving him unable to walk and later paralyzing the right side of his body that continued for the rest of his life.
"He drank unpasteurized milk from a cow that had tuberculosis and the tuberculosis can move from your lung to your vertebrae, so it moved to his spine and at the age of 17, for about two years, he was flat on his back and wasn't able to move at all and got down to below 90 pounds. So we went from a really healthy, athletic young man to just completely disabled," says Middleton.
The desire for raw milk in the United States has risen over the past several years and has been accompanied by a spike in disease outbreaks.
"It's confusing to me why people are so upset about drinking pasteurized milk because there is nothing that is destroyed that is beneficial to the individual in pasteurized milk," explains Auburn University Food Safety expert, Dr. Jean Weese.
Weese says studies have shown that raw milk is contaminated and can carry diseases including salmonella, listeria and tuberculosis.
"When you put the "milkers" on that cow, and then they come into contact with all the bacteria on the side of the bag and the utter of the cow and those bacteria can be transported very quickly into the milk itself," says Weese.
Alabama and Georgia are two of 17 states where the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal.
Middleton says she watches the way her family eats very closely and even though her grandfather lived a wonderful life until the age of 92, the "what ifs" constantly cross her mind.
"I want to give my children the best, but really through the filter of what is safe, and I don't think you could talk anybody in my family into drinking raw milk after that experience my grandfather had," says Middleton.