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Rhode Island lawmakers plan vote on raw milk before last gavel

RIstatehouse_406x250Ahead of its plans at week’s end to adjourn sine de di, the Rhode Island General Assembly will vote, as early as today, on Senate Bill No. 247, which would establish rules and regulations for raw milk sales.

It is one of a handful of bills that the General Assembly said it would vote on after the Statehouse press office announced that the 2017 session, which began Jan. 3, would wrap up this week with public action on only a handful of bills.

SB 257 was then put on the schedule for a public hearing that did not begin until after 5 p.m. Monday, and then took its place in line for a possible vote before Rhode Island lawmakers go home.

Commonly known as the “Raw Milk Act,” SB 247 would establish a milk commission that would establish, amend or repeal rules and regulations for the handling and sales of raw milk within the state.

Currently, the only sales of raw milk allowed under Rhode Island law involve goat milk and require a doctor’s prescription. Federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines.

Rhode Island producers of Grade A raw milk would be required to follow rules for handling and sale. Raw milk would have to be sold within five days unless shortened by the milk commission and raw milk products would require labeling with the name, address and zip code of the producing farm.

Raw milk would also have to be “conspicuously labeled” with a statement stating: “Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.” The bill requires that the type size of the waring be “not less than one-eighth inch in height or twice the height of any other lettering the label, whichever is greater.”

In addition to the warning on the product label, the law requires signage of not less than eight by eleven inches in total dimensions be displayed with the following: “Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.”

The type size must be at least one-half inch in height with the words “not pasteurized” being not less than one inch in height.

If enacted, the Rhode Island law would limit any producer or dealer to selling no more than 20 quarts per day. First time violators of the Rhode Island law could face a $100 fine with second offenders open to a $200 fine. Third and subsequent violations carry fines of $500 per violation.

Except for a few states, mostly in the Northeast, state legislatures have mostly adjourned for the year. The Rhode Island bill is one of the last left alive that could expand raw milk policies at the state level this year.

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