Yesterday, Georgia State Rep. Doug McKillip introduced a bill in the Georgia House that would legalize the sale and consumption of raw, unpasteurized milk.

As the law currently stands in Georgia, raw milk is illegal to sell for human consumption, but activists and farmers have been trying to change the law since state officials raided a local farmer’s supply last October. 

Rep. McKillip’s bill would elevate raw milk to the legal status of any lawful milk product in the state, meaning it would be regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

“I believe that raw milk should be made available to consumers in the state if they want,” he said.

Rep. McKillip is the most recent politician to get involved in the debate raging over raw milk, which has grown in size and volume in the last few years. Local producers and consumers say it is more nutritious, tastes better, and is no more harmful than pasteurized milk, which is heated to kill bacteria.

“Bacteria are critical to life itself. Our immune systems are suffering terribly because of antibiotics, superbugs and sterilized foods,” said Mark McAfee, a raw milk producer in California. “People who drink raw milk know this and seek out raw milk precisely because it is bio-diverse and enzyme rich.”

However, many experts, including government officials and scientists, warn that it can sicken or even kill you. Raw milk potentially contains a wide variety of harmful bacteria – including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella – that may cause illness and possibly death.

As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have concluded that the health risks associated with the consumption of raw milk far outweigh any benefits derived from its consumption.

This position is evidenced in standing federal regulations. Today, it is a violation of federal law to sell raw milk packaged for consumer use across state lines (interstate commerce), but each state can regulate the sale of raw milk within the state (intrastate).  Some states therefore allow raw milk to be sold. As of 2006, according to the FDA, 25 states had laws outright banning the sale of raw milk for human consumption, including Georgia.

Regardless of the national numbers, Rep. McKillip said he thinks the dairy industry will grow and provide economic benefits to the state if the bill passes. 

“Allowing raw milk sales actually greatly strengthens small dairy farmers. Properly regulated, I don’t see why we shouldn’t sell raw milk.”