It was only a matter of time. Colorado raw milk rules are among the most restrictive in the West, but that isn’t likely to last. With bipartisan sponsors, Senate Bill (SB) 24-0434 is off and running in the Colorado Legislature.  Colorado’s governor, as a congressman, was a prominent Food Freedom Caucus member.

Under current law, if you own a cow or goat that produces raw or unpasteurized milk, you may drink it, but you cannot sell it in Colorado. Cow shares are recognized as ownership. But that’s about it.

Instead, Colorado is considering joining its surrounding Western states by allowing raw milk dairies to sell directly to consumers. This is the one-step short of allowing retail sales of raw milk,  It’s where the law stops in Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Utah, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California do permit raw milk sales in all sorts of retail stores.

SB 24-043 legalizes the sale of raw milk from cows or goats in Colorado when sold directly to consumers, either at the dairy, at the consumer’s residence, or at a farmer’s or roadside market. The raw milk dairy making such sales must be registered with the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and meet certain handling and labeling requirements.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) shares jurisdiction for those handling and labeling requirements and will make the raw milk rules in consultation with CDPHE.

CDA may investigate raw milk producers and apply civil penalties through civil actions against any producers who violate the raw milk program’s requirements.

The bipartisan sponsors, Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Summit County, and Sen. Byron Felton, R-Sterling, say that while opening raw milk sales directly to the consumer, their bill considers food safety.  Rules violations could result in fines totaling $500 per container.

Under the bill, raw milk must be labeled with the dairy’s name and production date and a warning that the product “may increase your risk of foodborne illnesses,” including a higher risk for children, pregnant women, and older people.”  The bill also requires that raw milk be kept below 40 degrees F during transport.

For decades, the State of Colorado has warned the public about the dangers of raw milk.   That will likely end with this bill or if Polis silences his CDPHE scientists during hearings and debates on SB 24-043.

The raw milk bill could become law as early as 90 days after the Colorado Legislature adjourns.   The bill is subject to a referendum to voters, although such action isn’t likely.  CDA oversight and registration of raw milk producers will require an additional full-time employee and cost $125,970 by FY 2025-26.  The fiscal note on the bill figures that CDA will collect $126,000 annually from registering 200 raw milk producers.

Since 1987, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited the sale of raw milk across state lines. Regardless of state laws, most state agriculture and health departments recommend against consuming raw milk or products made from it because of the danger of contamination by E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and other pathogens.

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