The individual cow-share (or herd-share) scheme Maryland legislative analysts said could double the number of the state’s raw milk-caused outbreaks is dead. Delegate James Hubbard (D-Bowie) withdrew House Bill 3 on Monday after failing to get it through the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
The veteran legislator could not dislodge HB 3 from the committee after the Department of Legislative Services reported that the bill could both double raw-milk outbreaks and increase the number of sporadic or isolated cases of illnesses from unpasteurized milk from almost none today to 100 to 165 a year. Legislative services provides Maryland lawmakers with independent fiscal and policy analyses of bills.
Dr. Katherine Feldman, of the Maryland Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Bureau, was also concerned about the dangers of unpasteurized milk. She said raw milk is conducive to the growth of various bacteria.
“Pasteurization is the cornerstone of milk safety and a triumph of public health,” Feldman said.
Hubbard got a little bipartisan help from Delegate Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), who argued that raw milk should be legal since alcohol, cigarettes, oysters and tanning also have health risks but are legal and available in the state.
HB 3 would have exempted the sale of raw milk and raw milk products from regulations governing production, processing, labeling and distribution if the final consumer had an ownership interest in the animal or herd that produced the raw milk. It would not have applied to restaurant, retail, commercial, wholesale or other sales of raw milk and raw milk products to subsequent buyers.
Making raw milk sales legal through cow-share or herd-share ownership agreements would have cost the state at least $66,100 in 2015, according to fiscal estimates.
Under current law, Maryland prohibits selling raw milk for human consumption unless it’s used for making farmstead cheese. Milk must be sold to processors, who pasteurize it before it can be distributed and sold to consumers.
Raw milk does reach consumers in Maryland from neighboring Pennsylvania, where the sale of unpasteurized milk is legal and where, from time to time, the state line fails to be a barrier to distribution.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 148 outbreaks of disease from 1998 to 2011, causing 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths. CDC found states that permit sales of raw milk have a higher incidence of milk product-related illnesses than those that don’t.
Currently, 20 states ban the sale of raw milk, 18 allow limited on-the-farm or farmer’s market sales or cow-share schemes, and 12 permit raw milk to be sold in retail stores.© Food Safety News