In a letter delivered to each member of the Oregon Legislature Wednesday, the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association (ODFA) told why it opposes opening up the gates on unpasteurized milk in the state.

OFDA’s nearly 300 members produce milk for dairies that pasteurize milk before it is sold to consumers.

The organization is telling Oregon lawmakers that:

  • Raw milk can have serious health effects, especially for pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

  • Raw milk can become contaminated with harmful microbiological organisms such as E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella.

  • Testing of raw milk cannot accurately reveal the presence of these organisms.  Just because a test does not indicate the presence of organisms does not mean the harmful organisms are absent.

  • Science-based data to substantiate claims that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk is limited and lacking.

The letter, signed by OFDA’s Roger Beyer, legislative director, and Jim Krahn, executive director, says, “The risks associated with consuming raw milk are real.”  It asks Oregon legislators to check video stories about raw milk risks that are available at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“The risks of consuming raw milk outweigh the perceived benefits,” the ODFA leaders added.  “Pasteurization is the only proven method to ensure the safety of milk.”

Oregon’s top public health officials have also come out against easing restrictions on raw milk sales in the state.

Under current Oregon law, unpasteurized milk can only be sold directly to consumers on the farm where it is produced and cannot be advertised for sale. The dairy law also limits the number of milk-producing animals a raw-milk seller can own.

Expanded raw milk sales in Oregon are part of the House Bill 2222, which is called the Family Farm Act.  ODFA opposes the raw milk language contained in H.B. 2222, which was drafted by the Friends of Family Farmers.

The Family Farm Act was the subject of a public hearing last week (Feb. 2), but has not been scheduled for further action before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

If enacted, H.B. 2222 would:

  • Allow a person to slaughter not more than 1,000 chickens for use as human food without state or federal inspection.

  • Expand Oregon’s three-cow, nine-goat limit for raw milk producers for those who undergo licensing and agree to conduct bacteria tests.

  • Liberalize rules for those seeking special assessment (tax cuts) for their farmland.

  • Add to the State Board of Agriculture two Oregon commodity producers who are engaged in marketing their products solely within the state.

The 1,000-bird exemption for poultry processors is also contained in a separate bill that may be acted on as early as this week by the Ag Committee.