Lawmakers push to legalize raw milk sales 

By Tyler Gribbons

click to enlarge Unpasteurized milk, bottled directly from cows. By Zero-X via Flickr Creative Commons.
  • Unpasteurized milk, bottled directly from cows. By Zero-X via Flickr Creative Commons.

Farmers could sell raw milk - but the state would set the rules for it - under legislation proposed by Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown.

Current law prohibits farmers or producers from selling raw milk - which is unpasteurized - for human consumption. Consumers can purchase it as pet food.

Senate Bill 513 grew out of a legislative discussion last year about legalizing it and a study conducted this summer by the Board of Animal Health, which recommended two options:

- The state maintains its current laws about pasteurization and broaden them to include milk sold by pet stores or through herdshares, which is when a consumer buys a share of a cow, which allows them to obtain raw milk.

- Allow the Board of Animal Health to issue permits, establish minimum sanitation standards and limit the sale to the farmer who produces the milk selling directly to consumers.

Young opted for the second option when creating his legislation.

"What I did was simply take their recommendation and had that exact language which we put into a piece of legislation," Young said. "So basically this is the recommendation."

But the Board of Animal Health did express some concerns about milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a practice that is highly effective in reducing the risk of human illness from raw milk supporters say. All milk that is sold in stores has to be pasteurized.

But some consumers still say they want legal access to raw milk and the herdshare arrangements currently used are not covered by regulators.

Raw milk advocates say it has many benefits that can't be obtained with pasteurized milk and say that raw milk isn't any riskier than other food products. They say raw milk has many minerals that can cure or help with ailments and the pasteurization process kills of those beneficial minerals.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, also authored legislation enabling consumer access to raw milk under certain direct arrangements with farmers. He said the core question is a battle between consumer freedom and consumer protection.

"There's the fear of distributing an unsafe product versus the freedom of a consumer to choose a product that they want," Banks said. "That's the fundamental question."

Tyler Gribbons is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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