The Obama administration delivered its official response last week to the 6,078 signors of a petition on WhiteHouse.gov who requested federal-level legalization of all raw milk sales. The response indicated that the White House continues to support the current regulation of raw milk sales, which allow states to determine legality but prohibits its sale across state lines.
The response was written by Doug McKalip, White House senior policy adviser for rural affairs, who said the administration recognizes the importance of letting consumers control their own food choices. The 143 illness outbreaks associated with raw milk since 1987, however, underscore the dangers of its consumption.
“This administration believes that food safety policy should be based on science,” McKalip wrote. “In this case, we support pasteurization to protect the safety of the milk supply because the health risks associated with raw milk are well documented.”
McKalip went on to state that the nutritional and health benefits of raw milk have not been scientifically verified, referring to purported claims that raw milk can cure or treat conditions such as lactose intolerance, asthma, allergies, immunodeficiency or digestion problems. He wrote that as a science-based regulatory agency, the Food and Drug Administration “looks to the scientific literature.”
He said the FDA’s position on raw milk is shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics — that raw milk is comparable in nutritional quality to pasteurized milk, while the health risks of raw milk “are clear.”
The petition was posted to WhiteHouse.gov’s “We the People” site on September 23 and gained momentum on social networking sites and web forums, eventually surpassing the 5,000-signature requirement to receive a response from the Obama administration. As of October 3, WhiteHouse.gov now requires petitions to reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days to receive a response.
Currently, 30 states allow the sale of raw milk while 20 prohibit it. Although the FDA does not allow interstate sales of raw milk, McKalip reiterated that transporting unpasteurized milk across state lines for personal consumption is legal, and that the government “has never taken, nor does it intend to take” action against individual consumers.
Raw milk has been the vehicle in illness outbreaks involving a range of pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Campylobacter. Between 1987 and September 2010, the CDC linked raw milk to 2,659 cases of illness, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages.
The original petition and McKalip’s full response can be read here.