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Raw Milk: A Low Incidence/High Consequence Choice

The daily risk factor for consuminig raw milk might be acceptable were it not for the dire consequences involved when one’s proverbial luck runs out. It’s called a low incidence/ high consequence choice.

The 50 states went into 2011 fairly evenly split between those that do and those that do not allow the sale of raw milk.  Those numbers are going to change, in a few weeks or months, because unpasteurized milk is getting another look at statehouses across the country.

Some, like Iowa, are considering more liberal raw milk sales, as a means of spurring some badly needed economic growth.  House File 394, allowing on-farm sales directly to consumers, was heard recently by the Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa subcommittee.

Raw milk advocates continue to argue that the pathogen-killing pasteurization process also eliminates naturally occurring bacteria that make it healthier.  Consumers who believe that have shown a willingness to pay as much as $15 a gallon for raw milk.

States, hungry for jobs, and elected officials who are more skeptical of regulations in general, are giving raw milk a try.

In Minnesota, state Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, figures if most California counties can sell raw milk, so too can the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  He is not concerned that raw milk made 62 Minnesotans ill in the past year.

Nienow says no food product is absolutely safe. He has introduced a raw milk bill, and hopes to negotiate for more oversight in exchange for an easier system of selling it to consumers.

In New Jersey, Assembly Bill 743 was brought up for an amendment that removes retail stores from raw milk sales, and calls for a permit system by the Department of Agriculture, and inspections by both Ag and the Department of Health and Senior Services.

That amendment was made on the floor, but it appears the New Jersey raw milk bill is back in committee.

Oregon’s HB 2222, a multi-subject family farm bill that includes more liberal raw milk sales, also remains in committee.  Texas HB 75 was assigned to the Public Health Committee on Feb. 9, and has not yet received a public hearing.

Vermont’s raw milk bill, adopted in 2009 (Act 62), may have to be brought back to the Legislature because of a dispute between the Agency of Agriculture and the organization known as “Rural Vermont.”

Under Act 62, Vermont farmers can sell limited amounts of unpasteurized milk directly to the public, but only for “fluid consumption.”

The agriculture agency’s dairy section recently objected to Rural Vermont workshops, in which raw milk was used to make butter, yogurt and cheese and then served to participants. After receiving a warning letter last month, Rural Vermont cancelled further classes, and talks are underway that might end up back in the Legislature.

© Food Safety News
  • Brad

    Raw milk should be legal. People should have the choice to drink pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. It’s as simple as that.

  • Allen Sayler

    The science of illness related to the consumption of raw milk is well established. Raw milk has a proven record of creating illness and injury after consumption, particularly for children, who do not have a choice, but have to rely on their well-intentioned but misinformed parents. To further promote expansion of laws allowing for the sale of raw milk is a movement not back to nature and all things natural being good, but a movement of ignorance. Many things in natural injure or kill and raw milk has a strong potential of being one of them if consumed. The idea of buying raw milk from a “local” dairy farmer does not ensure that the dairy cow health and milking hygiene meet acceptable standards. Unfortunately, many promoters of raw milk consumption are doing so strictly for financial gain in that raw milk is priced much higher than pasteurized milk.

  • mmconiglemartin

    Brad, I agree that people should have a choice as long as they are educated about both the pros and cons of drinking raw milk. Do you really know the choice you’re making, especially if you are giving it to your children? A little accidential poop in the milk could make them severely ill. Raw milk does not have the capacity to kill pathogens even if the leaders in the raw milk movement say it does. This belief is promoted to make people feel safe about drinking raw milk. Did you know this is a false belief?
    Very well said Allen.

  • Mary McGonigle-Martin

    Brad, I agree that people should have a choice as long as they are educated about both the pros and cons of drinking raw milk. Do you really know the choice you’re making, especially if you are giving it to your children? A little accidential poop in the milk could make them severely ill. Raw milk does not have the capacity to kill pathogens even if the leaders in the raw milk movement say it does. This belief is promoted to make people feel safe about drinking raw milk. Did you know this is a false belief?
    Very well said Allen.

  • barb corson

    According to their website the CDC says 800 people have been made ill from drinking raw milk since 1998.
    For those of you who say that raw milk should be illegal, would you also say raw eggs and raw beef should be illegal? How about raw spinach? People can also get sick from consuming these.
    How about those of us who have “family cows” that we milk every day…. Should we be allowed to drink the milk raw if we want to?
    We won’t ever be able to create a world in which 100% of the people are 100% healthy, especially not by more regulations.
    Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage informed adults to make their own food choices? here’s a possible solution: require milk to be tested regularly and the results of the test to be printed on a release form which the consumer has to sign in order to buy the milk.
    As far as who has responsibility for the health of children –isn’t it the same people who decided to create the kids in the first place; i.e., the parents?