Governor Brian P. Kemp made a special occasion earlier this month for signage of his administration’s Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank legislation (SB 396), the Freedom to Farm Act (HB 1150), and a bill to expand the elementary agriculture education program (HB 1303).

Gov. Kemp did not, at that time, sign House Bill 1175, the Georgia Raw Dairy Act, which has also reached his desk. 

Any significance to Kemp not including the Raw Milk Dairy Act as one of his celebratory food bills isn’t known,

The Georgia Legislature passed the Raw Milk Dairy Act by large margins, making the Peach State the 31st state to allow raw milk sales with an effective date of July 1, 2023.

Georgians can purchase raw milk under existing law. But, its labeled as “pet milk” and sold by farms with animal feed licenses, which are available for a small fee.

Rep. Clay Pirkle, R-Ashburn, said that “pet milk” is never tested or checked for bacteria or somatic cell counts under the current system. 

 “We have no idea what’s in it,” said Pirkle, (HB) 1175’s sponsor.

In support of the bill, he said it would allow for raw milk regulation for the safety of consumers. 

But in passing the Georgia Raw Dairy Act, the Legislature is betting regulated raw milk sales will top “pet milk” sales.  

Measurements for raw milk and raw milk products are not readily available because they are relatively small and stagnant. Georgia, however, is counting on consumers clamoring for more raw milk products for their alleged benefits.

Martin Yoder, owner of the White House Dairy Farm at Montezuma, GA, told the Georgia Legislature that (HB) 1175 opens a new market that potentially will triple his income.

Yoder predicted that without change, family-owned dairy farms would be gone within 10 years, leaving Georgia with only about 40 large dairies. A switch to Grade A raw milk is an option that could save some family-owned dairies, he says.

The Raw Dairy Act requires licenses and requirements for raw milk products for human consumption following food safety regulations under the authority of the Commissioner of Agriculture.

One of those requirements is a warning label on the raw milk packaging. It must say: “Warning: This is a raw milk product that is not pasteurized and may increase the risk of foodborne illness.”

Iowa’s Senate File (SF) 2309 was another raw bill not unlike Georgia’s, but it did not get as far.

The Iowa Senate voted 32-15 on March 10 in favor of (SF)2309, which sought to allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers, either on the farm through direct deliveries. 

But nothing much has happened after the Senate vote. Since it passed the Senate, opposition to SF2309 dominated.

Wanting the bill killed are the Iowa Public Health Association, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship; Iowa Institute for Cooperatives, Iowa Environmental Health Association, Iowa State Dairy Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association; Iowa Grocery Industry Associaton; Iowa Farm Bureau, and the Iowa Dairy Foods Association.

Coalitions representing pasteurized foods and public health have stopped many raw milk bills in the past, and, in Iowa, such joint efforts worked again.

The Iowa Legislature adjourned on April 19, not allowing (SF)2309 to gain any traction in the House.

However, Missouri’s House Bill 1977 remains alive, with adjournment not scheduled until May 20.

On April 25, Missouri’s House voted 124-to-11 to pass HB1977. Another 11 members voted “present.” The Senate placed it on the First Reading calendar.

HB1977 bill would legalize selling “Grade A” retail raw milk and raw cream products made in Missouri at grocery stores, restaurants, soda fountains, and similar establishments.

The raw milk products would also be required to post and carry warning labels saying: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.”

 Raw milk does not go through pasteurization, which is the process of quickly heating milk to a high enough temperature for a short time to kill illness-causing germs. Pasteurized milk is milk that has gone through this process

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raw milk and raw milk products are health risks for consumers.

From 1993 through 2012, 127 outbreaks reported to CDC were linked to raw milk. These outbreaks included 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. Most of the outbreaks were caused by Campylobacter, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or Salmonella

A large number of raw milk outbreaks involve children. At least one child younger than five was involved in 59 percent of the raw milk outbreaks reported to the CDC from 2007 through 2012. Children aged 1 to 4 years accounted for 38 percent of Salmonella illnesses in these outbreaks and 28 percent of illnesses caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which can cause kidney failure and death.

The CDC finds that reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. Most illnesses are not a part of a recognized outbreak, and many others occur for every outbreak and every illness reported.

For the past 100 years, almost all milk in the United States has been subject to pasteurization. The process ended the era when millions of people became sick and died of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and other diseases that were transmitted through raw milk.

Pasteurization has prevented millions of people from becoming ill. Most public health professionals and health care providers consider pasteurization one of public health’s most effective food safety interventions ever.

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