Legislators in West Virginia are considering allowing expanded raw milk sales in their state.

Two bills have been introduced so far this session. The first, House Bill 4911, would allow the sale of unpasteurized, raw milk as long as containers were clearly labeled as being ungraded raw milk. The bill, introduced by Delegate Michael Hornby, would also give raw milk producers immunity from civil liability related to consuming their unpasteurized products.

The other bill before West Virginia legislators, House Bill 4736, is the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act. It would “allow for the sale and consumption of homemade and farm fresh raw milk and raw milk products and to encourage the expansion of raw milk dairy sales by small farm producers and accessibility of their products to informed end consumers.”

House Bill 4736 would allow sales of unpasteurized, raw milk directly between the producer and consumer. It would allow the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to register and inspect small dairies for compliance.

Regulatory items include milking practices, cleaning, testing, and storage.

The bill would make it illegal for municipalities to have their regulations about raw milk: “Notwithstanding any other provisions of law or specific requirements of the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act, there shall be no licensure, permitting, or certification required by any agency of any political subdivision of the state which pertains to the preparation, serving, use, consumption or storage of raw milk or raw milk products under the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act.”

Both bills were referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The bills must be scheduled for hearings to continue in the legislative process.

The transportation and sale of raw milk across state lines is prohibited by federal law. Most local and state health and agriculture departments advise against drinking raw, unpasteurized milk because bacteria and viruses can contaminate it. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture advise against drinking raw milk. It can be especially dangerous for children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.

Many states have laws against the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk. Some allow it only within herd share operations and others allow it to be sold by farmers directly to individual consumers. A few states, such as California, allow raw milk to be sold at retail stores, but it must have warning labels.

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