Tucked into a rambling bill “promoting agriculture in the Commonwealth” of Massachusetts that includes provisions on joy-riding all-terrain vehicle operators, rain sensors on residential landscape sprinkler systems, and sundry sections on land assessments, re-valuation and taxation, is language to legalize the sale of unpasteurized raw milk.

The Massachusetts bill, SD 1796, includes more than 7,300 words — 780 of them pertain to efforts to legalize on-farm raw milk sales direct to consumers as well as sales through herd- or animal-share programs for dairy cows and goats.

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For statistics on raw milk vs. pasteurized milk, click on the image.

Sale of raw milk across state lines is prohibited by federal law, and in-state sales are banned by a number of states. Some states allow direct-to-consumer sales. California allows the sale of unpasteurized raw milk in retail stores, but warning signs are required.

Public health officials at local, state and federal levels warn against consuming unpasteurized raw milk because of the dangers of bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.

The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services website includes a number of references about dangers of raw milk, especially for children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women and other people with suppressed or undeveloped immune systems.

The Massachusetts bill does not specifically address pathogen testing or other food safety requirements for raw milk, instead stating:

“The department of agricultural resources and the department of public health, acting jointly, shall adopt and promulgate reasonable rules and regulations governing the handling, packaging, storage, testing, and transportation of raw milk, provided that non-mechanical refrigeration shall be permitted.”

The Massachusetts bill does require that herd- or animal-share agreements include a “prominent warning statement that the raw milk is not pasteurized nor subject to inspection by the department of public health nor the department of agricultural resources and that the raw milk is subject to limited safety testing by the department of agricultural resources.”

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