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State Legislative Season Means Raw Milk Changes Are Possible

The annual raw milk games are underway in state capitols around the country, with this year’s action centered in the Midwest and West.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the interstate sales of raw milk, each state is free to make its own decisions about raw milk sales within its own borders.

Public health experts generally hold that people who drink raw or unpasteurized milk have an increased risk of contracting serious foodborne diseases. But the timeless product has many advocates who claim access to raw milk is a “food freedom.”

Texas Senate ChambersState elected officials must decide where to draw the line.

And at least half a dozen states are thinking about changing their raw milk policies. These included Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. About 20 states currently ban commercial sales of raw milk entirely, while the other 30 states allow it in some form.

Bills introduced into state legislatures this year mostly include familiar measures like allowing on-farm sales or permitting so-called “cow-share” agreements that make it possible for someone in the city to own part of a dairy cow and share in the milk.

So far this year’s “wild idea” award would have to go to State Sen. Kent Sorenson (R-Milo, IA) who is the sponsor of Senate File (SF) 61. His bill imposes a moratorium on the administration and enforcement of all of Iowa’s statutes and rules affecting unprocessed food.

The moratorium –beginning July 1, 2014–would cover raw milk, eggs, nuts, honey, fruits and vegetables. The bill requires state departments to report on Jan. 1, 2014 to the Iowa General Assembly “outlining all statutes and rules affected by the moratorium and proposals to most effectively amend or repeal those statutes and rules.”

Food Safety News asked Sorenson what he is trying to accomplish with the bill, but he did not take the opportunity to comment. Iowa’s system of allowing lobbyists to declare support or opposition to a bill indicates SF 61 maybe in for some rough sledding.

The Iowa Public Health Association, Association of Business and Industry, Visiting Nurses Services, Iowa Medical Society, Iowa State Association of Countries and Iowa Dairy Association are among those who’ve already signed up against SF 61.

Other proposals that are in the works by states include:

Hawaii – On-the-farm sales of raw milk and raw milk products would be permitted under House Bill (HB) 99 and Senate Bill (SB) 364, companion measures. The sale of raw milk and dairy products made with raw milk are currently prohibited in Hawaii. (Copies of the bills were not readily available.)

Iowa – In addition to SF 61, Sorenson is also sponsoring SF 77 to allow dairy farms producing raw milk to engage in retail sales and exempting them from regulations imposed on the state’s Grade A producers of pasteurized milk.

Indiana – During its last session, the Indiana General Assembly ordered the state Board of Animal Health to study the raw milk issue and report back to lawmakers. In that report, BOAH recommended what would be required to assure some modicum of safety if raw milk sales were to be permitted in the Hoosier State.

So far, there are two raw bill bills before the Assembly. SB610 is a cow shares bill. SB 513 is a broader raw milk bill, requiring a permit, adherence to sanitation standards, direct farm sales to the consumer, and is limited to cows. It is not known if it meets all he BOAH requirements.

Oklahoma — Currently only on-the-farm sales of raw milk are permitted in Oklahoma.   HB 1541 would go a little further by allowing the raw milk producer to deliver the product to the consumer’s home.

Texas —The Lone Star state also currently limits raw milk sales to those made on-the-farm. HB 46 would expand the locations where raw milk sales could occur to homes and other venues including farmer’s markets, farm stands, flea markets and fairs.

Wyoming – No commercial sales of raw milk are permitted in the Cowboy State. SF 0112 provides regulatory authority for the state to issue “small herd permits,” that would allow holders to share in the herd’s  raw milk production.

© Food Safety News
  • Richard Moyer

    The first cow we owned from the city, we did so jointly with a family with land and time to milk.  We shared a portion of the milk and eventually they owned to cow.  We know more families in our area who are sharing a cow among 2-3 families, than families who obtain milk by owning a portion of a herd.  The latter at times is derisively labeled ‘so called “cow-share” agreements’, perhaps the former as well.  We also know families who pasteurize fresh milk before they drink it.  Yes, that technology can be done in the home, even in 2013.  I happen to be drinking some now, hot off the stove.  We also choose to pasteurize (by cooking) the raw meat that comes into our home, some of it more than others, depending on the perceived risk.

    Also, describing proposed state legislation as ‘raw milk games’ crosses the line from Food Safety News to an editorial comment.  Citizens have the right to petition our government for redress, often taking place through our legislators.  You may not like this freedom for this area, but thankfully it exists for all, and is used in a broad spectrum of areas. 

    Thanks for your work for FSN, for the variety of news you cover daily.  Thanks also for allowing reader comments!

    • Emily73

      The costs to society caused by consumption of raw milk are staggering. The “freedom” to drink raw milk can make others sick through person-to-person contact, costs government tens of thousands of dollars in outbreak investigations, and can cost millions in medical treatment. The cost of treating ONE person who develops hemolytic uremic syndrome from E. coli in raw milk, which happened several times last year, can reach $6 million. We all pay that through increased insurance and medical costs. You have no right to a “freedom” that has been proven to negatively affect others.

  • Sen. Sorenson has a wee bit of a ethics problem right now, so I don’t expect any bill he proposes to prosper.  Especially one that’s so incredibly nonsensical. 

    I wonder if all the states are aware of how much tax payer money is necessary in order to investigate a foodborne illness outbreak? Food freedom is, inherently, an oxymoron, because those who want to play Food Roulette are typically not the ones who pay all the costs associated with a food outbreak. 

  • Oginikwe

     What is the cost of smoking and drinking?  The costs to society caused by smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are also staggering, and the impact of smoking and alcohol abuse on other people is also very high.  We all also continue to pay for these abuses through increased insurance, medical costs, and lost productivity.  Yet, these “freedoms” are legal and easily cross state lines.

    • Emily73

      Here are severeal differences: raw milk is promoted as a “health food” and a cure-all for everything from asthma to eczema. And that is completely wrong. No one is saying that smoking and drinking to excess is good for you. I have also yet to see a case where a single puff on a cigarette or a single drink causes a $6,000,000 medical bill. That has happened frequently with raw milk: when a patient develops HUS from an E. coli infection and loses kidney function.

    • Emily73

      In addition, raw milk and raw milk products are given to children. When is the last time you saw someone push a cigarette or a martini on a 2-year old? 

      • Oginikwe

         The last time I saw people driving with all the windows rolled up and their little kids in the car, and as for the drinking, when a drunk t-boned a car with a family in it.  

  • Amy

    There are far more illnesses associated with pasteurized dairy products than raw dairy products. I’d much rather drink milk from a small sustainable farm than from a mass production farm from cows in poop up to their elbows.

    I’ve been drinking raw goat milk for two years, and it has cured my Crohn’s, and has had positive health benefits for my family and friends. I loved it so much, I got my own goats! I’ll never go back to that poison they call pasteurized milk again!