by Marion Nestle
Apr 3 2014

Raw milk: coming soon to a state near you?

I haven’t said much about raw milk in a while, but not because nothing is happening with it.

Tarini Parti writes in Politico that a bipartisan coalition of House members wants to end the long-standing ban on interstate marketing of raw milk.

Raw milk, Parti says, is “bringing together some of the most anti-government libertarians and left-leaning liberals.”

Politics makes strange bedfellows!

What unites them?  Freedom of choice, of course.

“It’s nice to see that people are now advocating for their right rather than science,” said Baylen Linnekin, executive director of Keep Food Legal, a group that describes itself as “the first nationwide membership organization devoted to food freedom—the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing.”

In a statement on his two bills, Massie [Rep-KY], too, highlighted the right to choose argument. “Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed. Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers,” he said. “Personal choices as basic as ‘what we feed our families’ should not be limited by the federal government.”

As for the pesky matter of science, take a look at Bill Marler’s website, Real Raw Milk Facts, where he collects:

As a reality check, take a look at the answer to the question, How many people get sick from raw milk compared to pasteurized milk?

But never mind all that.  ProPolitico’s Morning Agriculture report (behind the paywall, alas) listed states that are working on bills to make it easier to get raw milk.

— California: AB 2505 was introduced Feb 21 and would allow dairies to sell or share raw milk from cows on that facility directly to consumers. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture March 13:

— Georgia: HB 718 would set requirements for the sale of “ungraded milk” to consumers as long as it is labeled:

— Hawaii: HB 1987 and its companion S 2562 would allow the distribution of raw milk as part of a cow share, goat share or sheep share program. The measure was approved by the House Agriculture Committee, Jan. 27, but the House Committee on Health, the next hurdle for the legislation, has deferred on taking up the bill. S 2562 has yet to see any committee action:

— Iowa: SF 61 was carried over from 2013, and would put a moratorium on the enforcement of all state rules governing the sale of raw products, including produce, honey, nuts eggs and milk: SF 2306, meanwhile, would allow for the sale of cheese produced from raw milk and details labeling requirements for the product:

Louisiana:  HB 247 seeks to allow the sale of raw milk and unpasteurized cheese on the farm where it has been produced, though it would require the milk be clearly labeled as raw and deny liability by the state or farm in the case of illnesses from consumption. The bill, filed Feb 20, also would prohibit advertising:

— Maryland: SB 1092 was introduced Feb. 28 and would require producers of raw milk to have a written contract with consumers of the product and set up testing, safety and labeling requirements. It also would require producers to register with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: However, HB 3, which would have allowed for the distribution of raw milk to a cow share or Community Supported Agriculture agreement member, was withdrawn March 24 after an unfavorable report by the Health and Government Operations Committee:

— Massachusetts: HB 3857 would allow for the home delivery of raw milk to members of a cow share or a CSA agreement, and allow for farmers to sell raw milk from farm stands that are not on the site of where the milk is produced:

— Michigan: HB 5336 would prohibit federal regulation of any food, including raw milk, that is produced and then sold in the state:

— New Jersey: AB 543 would create a permitting program to allow farmers to sell raw milk, though only on the property where the milk is produced. The bill also seeks to set up testing requirement, storage temperature requirements and would mandate warning labels:

— New Jersey: S 1285 would permit the sale of raw milk and milk products to individuals and retail stores and sets inspection and testing standards, in addition to requiring that producers do not use growth hormones on the cows:

— Oklahoma: HB 2595 would amend the state’s Milk and Milk Products Act to ensure it does not prohibit the sale of raw milk. The measure would take effect Nov. 1, 2014:

— Rhode Island: S 2224 would require the state’s milk commission to establish rules for the sale of raw milk, but the Senate Health and Human Services Committee recommended the bill be held for further study on March 11:

— South Dakota: SB 126 would have created an exemption from state laws governing dairy products for raw milk that is packaged on the farm where it is produced and sold by the farmer, but the measure was tabled Feb. 21 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in a 5-1 vote:

— West Virginia: HB4274 would have permitted the sale of raw milk in the state as of Jan. 1, 2015, and HB 4273 would have allowed for participants in cow share programs to receive raw milk. However, the bills did not make it to a vote before the West Virginia legislative session ended, March 14: and here:

How’s that for an impressive list.


  • Kelly

    Ah, yes. Unpasteurized milk. Just the thing for those who don’t already have enough stupid dangerous ideas. Anyone feeding this stuff to their kids should be hauled in for endangering the welfare of a child. Marion failed to list links to medical news of various children whose kidneys failed because their stupid parents fed them raw milk. No justification for this sort of foolishness. No idea is too stupid or too dangerous for NYU staff to promote it, no?

  • Kevin Klatt

    such pseudoscience masquerading as personal choice.

  • disqus_2D8p3WyQVv

    Wait, I’m confused by the outbreak reasoning. It says “If raw and pasteurized milk were equally risky, it would be expected that there would be far more pasteurized outbreaks since the number of people drinking conventional milk is so much higher” But if only 1-3% of people are drinking raw milk and it still has a higher number of illnesses reported (according to the graph, 75 v. 47), doesn’t that suggested fewer outbreaks in a MUCH larger population of pasteurized drinkers? Help!

  • jeffjfl

    Kelly, can you provide any documentation linking raw milk consumption to cases of kidney failure?

  • Kelly

    Yeah. Just google around for “HUS” and “raw milk” to find out about this. Here is a link:

    A couple years ago there was a heartbreaking story circulating about an unfortunate little kid whose mother fed him raw milk and very nearly killed him. I think her name was Mary McGonigle Martin. People who want to get rich selling raw milk never tell you about these things. They have no interest in the safety of families who buy stuff from them. Just greedy or maybe stupid. Who knows?

  • Mike

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that. This is really a question about the role of government in public health.

    Consider the deaths and debilitating health consequences related to e.coli across a vast number of products of industrial agriculture (hamburger, spinach, etc.).

    There are risks associated with the globalized conventional food chain, just as there are with something like raw milk from a local farmer.

    If a consumer prefers the risks associated with a simpler food chain over the risks associated with the global commoditized food chain, is it really the government’s place to stop them?

  • Lorraine Lewandrowski

    We were raised on raw milk, dipped cold and fresh from the milkhouse. However, I am not an advocate for selling to consumers unless you as farmer are certified by state to sell, rigorously tested and have good product liability insurance. Good way to lose the farm in the event there was an issue with the raw milk. Pregnant women should avoid raw milk.

  • Michael Bulger

    Yes, the numbers suggest that raw milk is much more risky. The sentence you quote proposes a hypothesis (the two milks are equally risky), and then they show the hypothesis is not supported by the evidence.

  • Vik Khanna

    People should be able to buy raw milk if they want it. The raw milk producers should thus be insulated against any legal claim raised against them unless it can be shown that they were grossly negligent in the production, packaging and sale of the product. The consumer’s health plan should also have the choice to not cover and reimburse for any treatment that arises as a result of the choice to consume a product that is clearly outside the mainstream of what is considered safe food. There. Everyone wins. Raw milk fans get their product and assume the risk. I’m totally okay with that.

  • Brian Klein

    If it was such a risky food, why did so many cultures keep consuming it for thousands of years? Pasteurization is only about a hundred years old. (I’m sure some people consuming milk before pasteurization was widely known about would pasteurize it, though.) If you look at all the research, it is more risky than pasteurized milk. But you have a higher risk of dying in a automobile accident (if you drive) than even getting ill from raw milk. And I believe it’s more risky to eat shellfish, spinach and many other foods than it is to drink properly produced raw milk. Chris Kresser did some good research on this topic, so check out his blog. People should be aware of the risks associated with it, and it should be their choice to consume it. I’m not sure making it available in a retail setting is necessary, but I think farmers should be able to be properly licensed to sell and deliver raw milk to those who want it. It doesn’t need to be such an emotional issue.

  • MassageBook

    Please suggest me raw milk is good or not?

  • I was raised on raw milk, It tastes much better plus I think It has more useful vitamins than pasterilized milk. People should be able to choose what do they want to eat, drink and wear. Goverment is trying to control society by tellin them what to do, how to do it, how to look, what to eat and so on… sadly the biggest population of people are easily manipulated by goverment so thats why we have what we have now. look for some tips here if you like.

  • TR

    In those cultures, people consumed the raw milk straight from the animal. It wasnt bottled, transported, and put on a shelf in a store, and people lived short lives anyway. Because of the constraints of handling and transporting large volumes of milk for a market economy, pasteurization had become necessary to protect consumer safety. After pasteurization had become required, suddenly less people got sick from milk. The only way I’d accept raw milk is if I received it fresh from the farmer and the milk was still warm from the cow’s body heat- not even 1 hour old. That is just not possible in a large scale operation. So, why is interstate transport of raw milk even being discussed? Seems silly to me.

  • Brian Klein

    If you look at the history of how milk was produced in the United States, you would find that people were getting sick from raw milk because they were drinking milk from sick cows. Cattle were living in unsanitary conditions, and were fed a diet unnatural to their species. They often lived in barns next to breweries, and were fed the waste products. If the cattle had been living in sanitary conditions able to roam in fields of grass, the number of people getting sick from raw milk would have been drastically less. But that’s not really the point here. I believe this issue comes down to individual choice. People living on state lines should be able to get milk from a neighbor farmer. Farmers living on state lines should be able to deliver to their neighbors. Cigarettes and alcohol kill many more people than raw milk ever will. Why are there no rules forbidding the transport of liquor and tobacco across state lines? Or shellfish? Or spinach? People still choose to smoke and drink despite the ill health effects and the risk of death. And the government allows it. It should be their choice to drink milk as they see fit as well. My opinion regarding milk is that it is not necessary for optimal health, so I choose not drink much of it. But I don’t think the government should restrict access to those who do want it. I don’t think we need to open the floodgates and make it available in large scale operations. I think that goes against much of what those in the raw milk movement want, as well. It’s just about free access to the food you feel is right for your family.

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