New Jersey teetered on the brink of allowing commercial raw milk sales last year, but it did not happen.

Assembly Bill 743, setting up a permit system and allowing the commercial sale of raw milk, passed New Jersey’s lower house on a 71-6 vote (with one abstention) way back in March, 2011.   

A743 was then sent to the Senate Economic Growth Committee, where nothing more happened until late December, when committee chairman Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, gave the proposal a spirited public hearing. However, he announced before starting that A743 was dead because it did not have enough votes to clear the committee.

For raw milk advocates, there was some hope for another hearing and a vote when the Senate met for the final two days of the expiring session, Jan. 5 and Jan. 9. But that did not happen. A743 was officially dead.

On Jan. 10, a carbon copy of A743 was introduced into the new Assembly session under the new number A518. The measure is missing one sponsor, Rep. Charlotte Vandervalk, a 39th District Republican, who retired from the Assembly after 20 years.

The new bill was assigned to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.  The same drill occurred in the state Senate, with the new bill getting the number S5279. It was assigned to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

Changing numbers does not mean there has been any change to the bill’s language permitting commercial sales.

Sponsors want to make populous New Jersey the 31st state to allow commercial raw milk sales. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) says 30 states currently allow raw milk sales, although in 13 of those states unpasteurized milk is restricted to on-farm sales.    

In the last three years, there have been numerous proposals in state legislative bodies both to ease raw-milk restrictions and to tighten raw-milk regulations. During that time period, NASDA reports five states have increased quality standards for unpasteurized dairy products.

Because of New Jersey’s sheer size, however, there is considerable interest in what steps it may take. It also borders Pennsylvania and New York, where raw milk sales are legal. Not only do New Jersey residents already drive to those neighboring states to pick up raw milk, but there are also some sophisticated delivery routes in place.

Sponsors of the New Jersey bill say they could only get it through the Assembly last year by accepting an amendment to limit sales to farm stands.


In the new Assembly, sponsors are picking up on new “value-added” theme, namely that the Garden State’s remaining 87 dairy farms need a value-added product to survive.

Another public hearing, this one on the Assembly side, will probably occur fairly early in the new legislative session. In the December Senate hearing, raw milk advocates squared off against joint opposition by the public health community and the New Jersey Food Council.

The council, representing food retailers and suppliers, fears that raw milk-caused outbreaks could hurt state dairy sales of pasteurized products.

The “value-added” theme is popping up in numerous statehouses this year, perhaps most notably in Vermont, where value-added legislation has been introduced to clear the way to “turn milk into cheese, apples into cider, and trees into furniture.”

Advocates say raw milk, which typically goes for $8 to $10 a gallon, tastes better than pasteurized milk. They also say it has health benefits. The Food and Drug Administration says research shows no meaningful difference in the benefits of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk, and that raw milk carries a greater risk of bacterial contamination than pasteurized milk.

At December’s New Jersey Senate hearing, raw milk advocates presented testimony from Dr. Theodore F. Beals, a physician licensed by the State of Michigan, claiming 10 million people drink raw milk while annually only 35 become ill.

The FDA, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state data, says that from 1987 there were at least 133 outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products, and that these outbreaks caused 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages.

No hearings on the measure are scheduled yet in New Jersey, perhaps in part because the state Legislature is off to a delayed start due to the death of Republican Assembly Leader Alex DeCrocie. Gov. Chris Christie postponed his State-of-the-State address to accommodate services for the veteran lawmaker.


  • The Northeast Dairy Foods Association, Inc., located in Syracuse, NY represents dairy product processors, manufacturers and distributors in the northeast U.S. including New Jersey. Our association is opposed to all sales of raw milk for consumption to the general public. We call for the repeal of all laws that allow the sale of raw milk to the general public in all northeast U.S. states that currently allow it.
    Our association believes selling raw milk is a public health safety threat. Sales of raw milk only leads to negative PR; reduces confidence in the public’s eye towards all dairy products when there is a raw milk sickness outbreak and decreases consumption and production of milk on farms that do not sell raw milk.
    Raw milk is dangerous and should not be allowed to be sold to the public. Our association will again oppose any efforts in the 8 northeast states that attempt to increase and further allow the sale of raw milk.
    We call on all health professionals, members of food science academia and legitimate dairy industry representatives to assist and help push back this effort to allow raw milk sales to be sold to the general public which poses a true and real health threat.

  • the sale of raw milk “poses a true and real health threat” … compared to what?! Dr Beals’ work is the closest you’ll come to actuarial tables : he says that consuming raw milk is 35,000 times LESS risky than any other foodstuff in commerce
    Bruce W Krupke’s comment exemplifies Herbert Spencer’s maxim : “there is a principle which is a bar against all information, proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance… that principle is, contempt prior to investigation”

  • Joseph Heckman

    “reduces confidence in the public’s eye towards all dairy products when there is a raw milk sickness outbreak and decreases consumption and production of milk on farms that do not sell raw milk.”
    So what happens when pasteurized milk is linked to sickness and death?
    As is this example: Outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes Infections Associated with Pasteurized Milk from a Local Dairy – Massachusetts, 2007 From CDC’s MMWR: On November 27, 2007, a local health officer in central Massachusetts contacted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to report listeriosis in a man aged 87 years. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) performed on the patient’s Listeria monocytogenes isolate produced a pattern indistinguishable from that of isolates from three other cases identified in residents of central Massachusetts in June, October, and early November 2007. MDPH, in collaboration with local public health officials, conducted an investigation, which implicated pasteurized, flavored and nonflavored, fluid milk produced by a local dairy (dairy A) as the source of the outbreak. This report summarizes the results of that investigation. In all, five cases were identified, and three deaths occurred. This outbreak illustrates the potential for contamination of fluid milk products after pasteurization and the difficulty in detecting outbreaks of L. monocytogenes infections.
    And this example: Massive outbreak of antimicrobial-resistant salmonellosis traced to pasteurized milk
    C. A. Ryan et al., JAMA. Vol. 258 No. 22, December 11, 1987
    Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333.
    Two waves of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella typhimurium infections in Illinois totaling over 16 000 culture-confirmed cases were traced to two brands of pasteurized 2% milk produced by a single dairy plant. Salmonellosis was associated with taking antimicrobials before onset of illness. Two surveys to determine the number of persons who were actually affected yielded estimates of 168,791 and 197,581 persons, making this the largest outbreak of salmonellosis ever identified in the United States. The epidemic strain was easily identified because it had a rare antimicrobial resistance pattern and a highly unusual plasmid profile; study of stored isolates showed it had caused clusters of salmonellosis during the previous ten months that may have been related to the same plant, suggesting that the strain had persisted in the plant and repeatedly contaminated milk after pasteurization.

  • Mike Keenan

    Make it simple, corporate America is choosing profit over principle, raw milk sales will not effect your bottom line, I do not drink pasteurized milk anyway, so you will not be losing me or my family as customers. I notice that disease management is still big business, so when you feed cows corn, you need big pharma and it’s drugs to keep the cows alive, not healthy, but alive. Fools, you would’nt know good food if it hit you in the mouth!

  • Mark Fletcher

    Bruce Krupke, you could care less about public safety. Because it is impossible for factory farms such as those owned by your members to produce raw milk, you simply don’t want ANYONE to have it. The truth is that your factory-farmed milk contains blood and feces due to disgusting conditions, and it MUST BE pasteurized to make it safe to drink. Your factory farms simply CANNOT COMPETE with clean raw milk farmers.

  • scott rowe

    I grew up on raw milk as did milions of people befoe greed took over the food industry. Does anyone think that a farmer would do anything to hurt is bottom line of getting 3 times the amount of money from customers than the govt gives to factory farms for their milk? The customer must be able to make the choice based upon their own knowledge of the source, they are not stupid as the govt thinks we are. If we were allowed to see the way factory farms produce and work with our food system there would be a revolt bigger than what is happening now. yes there will be isolated problems, but they wil not affect thousands of people as when there are problems with factory farms.