406x250Raw-Milk1A law permitting shared animal ownership agreements as the legal vessel for consuming raw milk has been singed into law in West Virginia by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Last year, the Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill, saying it would pose a serious health risk to public health because unpasteurized milk, aka raw milk, contains bacteria especially dangerous to children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.’ But this year, after seeing Senate Bill 387 pass the West Virginia Senate 22 to 12 on Feb. 5, and then gain House approval on Feb. 23 by a vote of 88 to 11 with one not voting, Tomblin signed the bill into law on March 4. His office said oversight requirements were included in HB 387 that were sufficient to satisfy his concerns. Local health officials, however, expressed disappointment with the governor’s flip-flop. “I cannot understand why we would knowingly put people health at risk, Dr. Michael Brume, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department officer, told local media. Shared animal ownership, otherwise known as herd sharing agreements, becomes effective in 90 days in West Virginia. All other sales of raw milk will remain illegal in the Mountain State. Anyone purchasing a herd or cow share must sign an agreement acknowledging the “inherent dangers of consuming raw milk.” The “responsible party” is prohibited from distributing, selling or re-selling raw milk obtained pursuant to a shared ownership agreement. The agreements must be filed with the state Commissioner of Agriculture and contain specific information. People signing shared herd agreements and their physicians must agree to report illnesses that develop from consuming raw milk. The West Virginia law also requires some testing and standards requirements and gives the Commissioner of Agriculture power to impose administrative fines up to $100. The commissioner and Department of Health and Human Resources are also empowered to promulgate additional rules. Primary sponsor of the new animal ownership law was state Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Tallmansville. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its consumer warnings about raw milk. “Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all,” according to the CDC. “Many people who chose raw milk thinking they would improve their health instead found themselves or their loved ones sick in a hospital for several weeks fighting for their lives from infections caused by germs in raw milk. For example, a person can develop severe or even life-threatening diseases, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure and stroke.”   (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)