Until now, when it came to raw milk, the state of Alaska was looking out for the public health of its residents. An easy to find fact sheet on the state’s website by the state veterinarian says:

“Raw milk may contain food-borne pathogens. These pathogens may be shed into the milk directly from the animal or enter the milk from the environment. These pathogens present a health threat to consumers of raw milk.”

The Alaska Division of Public Health and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation publish “Raw Milk Facts” on the state portal. “Raw milk has been recognized as a source of disease for over 100 years,” it says.

It explains the risks this way: “Unpasteurized milk can contain bacteria such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Salmonella. 

“While some people exposed to these bacteria do not develop any symptoms, others may develop short-term nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps.

“Illnesses can last a week or longer, and some people even develop severe, long-term consequences resulting in kidney failure or paralysis. These infections are particularly serious in very young, very old, or those who have impaired immune systems. 

“They can even be fatal.”

Those warnings across Alaska’s government go with existing regulations that prohibit the sale of raw milk and raw milk products. Their consumption is only by a person who owns the cow, sheep, or goat that produced the raw milk.

Alaska’s raw milk regulations do allow so-called “cow sharing” agreements. And during the recent 2021 session the Alaska Legislature opted to give “cow sharing” agreements the force of law. It was a signal that lawmakers are interested in helping small dairy farms diversify the economy.

But Alaska now is ready to throw caution to the wind. On Jan. 17, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation called for public comments on regulatory changes to allow the sale of raw milk and raw milk products in the state.

The public has until Feb.22 to comment on the proposed changes.

A public health insider in Alaska says: “The proposed rules are woefully unprotective.

The department proposes changes in Title 19 of Alaska’s Administrative Code dealing with milk and milk products in a new section that includes various edits and clarifications. 

The changes would permit the production and sale of raw milk.

The new section would include requirements for facilities, containers, operations, drug residues, transfers, sales, routine screening, animal health, testing, record retention, inspections, audit, detention, compliance and definitions.

The department invites private persons to comment on compliance costs with the proposed new regulations.

Under Alaska administrative law, the state can adopt all or none of the proposed regulations or “provisions dealing with the same subject.”

The regulatory changes under consideration would change existing law as outlined below:

Alaska Raw Milk Laws & Regulations

Retail Sale of Raw Milk Allowed — No
Other Sale of Raw Milk Allowed — No

Citations18 AAC 32.020; 18 AAC 32.060

Requirements Adopts Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and other CFR regulations requiring pasteurization; restrict avenues for raw milk from the farm — must either be sent for processing or marked not for human consumption; Requirements do not apply to a cow owned by individual and milked for personal use (cow-share “loophole”).

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