Against the recommendations of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, a state representative is trying for a third time to muster support for legalizing the sale of unpasteurized raw milk in the state.
Introduced by Rep. Nancy Ballance, a Republican, House Bill 325 would allow herd- and animal-share programs to distribute raw milk to people who pay for a stake in a dairy operation. The bill would also all “small herd” owners to sell unpasteurized, raw milk direct to consumers, as long as the sales take place at the dairy operation.
In a nod to the local, state and federal public health professionals who warn about the dangers of bacteria and other pathogens in unpasteurized raw milk, the bill would require warning labels on containers.
The labels would be required to state: “This product, which is sold for personal use and not for resale, is fresh whole milk that has not been pasteurized. Neither this farm nor the milk sold by this farm has been inspected by the state of Montana.”
The bill, similar to ones filed in 2013 an 2015 by Ballance, specifically covers milk from cows, goats and sheep.
Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk, but some states have enacted laws allowing for in-state sales under certain conditions. Some require warning labels, others do not.
A standing warning on the Montana health department’s website uses a food safety spin on a well-known milk marketing phrase: “Milk does not do a body good.” The Department of Public Health and Human Services website also flatly states “Montana should continue to prohibit the sale of non-pasteurized milk products.”
As with standing warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Montana health department warning about raw milk cites the benefits of pasteurization and the disproportionate threat it is to children because of their immature immune systems.
“Milk from healthy cows, goats, and sheep can contain organisms capable of causing human illness. Pasteurization is the only practical method for reducing pathogenic contamination of milk,” according to the Montana health department warning.
“Consumption of non-pasteurized milk products increases the risk for enteric illnesses and hospitalization; the health risks of non-pasteurized milk products outweigh the theoretical and unproven benefits often attributed to their consumption.”
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