Tennessee State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, is not giving up on his bill to eliminate the cow-share loophole and regulate raw milk sales in the state.
His bill to do that, however, is hung up a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Senate Bill 0015 has not received a hearing since it was assigned to Commerce & Labor on Jan. 19, and was assigned to the committee’s “General Subcommittee” on March 18.
The Tennessee General Assembly remains in session only through the end of April.]
Over the weekend, Briggs and William Zenker, father of a then 1-year old victim of the last June’s E. coli O157: H7 outbreak in Knoxville County that was sourced to a herd-share, went on local television to pitch the bill.
The infant, also named William, still suffering from complications from the outbreak.
Briggs says pasteurized milk producers in Tennessee must adhere to 24 pages of regulations, but there are no regulations for raw milk dairies. Yet, they are permitted under a 2009 loophole to sell high -risk product through herd-share programs.
“If it’s your own cow, then the state has no regulation over it, Briggs told WVLT in Knoxville. “They” ship to some of these stores, particularly small country stores and sell it out of the back room. There are all sorts of ways around it.”
If you aren’t selling raw milk Tennessee does not require milk cows be registered with the state. Briggs says at that point, there is no regulation of raw milk.
The General Assembly created the herd-share loophole a decade ago. It permits anyone with shared ownership of a cow, a herd, or a farm to take delivery of raw milk just like the original owner.
The outbreak last June in Knox County sickened a dozen children, causing multiple cases of kidney failure and one instance of permanent brain damage. Some of the children were in intensive care for more than 50 days.
French Broad Farm, located in East Knox County, was implicated as an outbreak source and it subsequently shut-down its herd-share program.
If the herd-share loophole is closed for all raw milk dairies in Tennessee, the only remaining way to sell raw milk in the state is to label it as pet food unfit for human consumption. A sole owner of a cow or cows producing raw milk could drink it for their own personal consumption, but could not legally peddle it to others.
When he introduced SB 0015, Briggs said the herd-share loophole is a “smoke and mirrors” way of getting around the law. He said, “it was not honest, to begin with.”
State health officials also have not found herd-share agreements easy to penetrate. In a 2007 cryptosporidium outbreak in Hamilton County, they had to go to court to obtain an order for the rel4ase of those involved in a herd-share scheme and directive that all stop selling the contaminated product.
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