Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bill could legalize sale of raw milk

Bill could legalize sale of raw milk

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: .

MADISON - Two legislators from west-central Wisconsin are helping draft a bill to make raw milk sales legal in the state.

State Sen. Pat Kreitlow, D-Chippewa Falls, and state Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, are among the legislators working to change a 1957 law that prohibits farmers from selling unpasteurized milk directly to consumers.

Kreitlow hopes to get a bill introduced before the end of the year and hold hearings on the topic early in the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 19.

"We've heard from constituents who are very concerned about a (Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) crackdown on raw milk sales," Kreitlow said. "It's pretty clear that any remedy would have to come from a change in state law. We're exploring a couple different possibilities that are still in the drafting stage that would allow farmers to engage in the marketing of raw milk while also being mindful of public health concerns."

At a recent hearing in Madison, 20 people spoke in favor of raw milk sales, including farmers who said they could make more money selling it and consumers who said it has improved their health.

However, 35 infections in September in Walworth County were linked to drinking raw milk. The victims suffered from campylobacter, an intestinal illness.

A farm in Elkhorn was selling raw milk through cow-share agreements with customers. Last month, DATCP issued an order to stop the farm from selling the milk. DATCP, which sent up to 12 raw-milk warning letters to farmers earlier this year, says consuming raw milk is illegal and can cause illness and death.

Kreitlow said one option in Wisconsin would be to authorize dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized milk and dairy products if they obtain a raw-milk permit from DATCP. Signs would be required to warn consumers that the raw milk doesn't provide the protections of pasteurization.

The other approach, which Kreitlow said is less likely to be introduced as legislation, would allow farmers with a Grade A permit to sell raw milk to consumers who are part owners of the animal. The cow-share approach was legal on a pilot basis on some Wisconsin farms earlier this decade but has since been outlawed.

"Really, it's a matter of putting the onus on the consumer, who would have an interest in the cow, or on the farmer who sells to consumers," Kreitlow said. "We're more likely to go the (farmer permit) route and see what kind of support we get for sponsorships and at a public hearing."

Kreitlow said it wouldn't be enough to establish a system in which consumers would sign a waiver saying they wouldn't sue the farmer if they got sick from the milk.

"You have to provide some kind of protection to the farmer who sells unpasteurized milk - some waiver from civil liability if the farmer is operating in a responsible fashion. You would have to build that into the statute," he said.

Advocates note that raw milk sales are allowed in 28 states. DATCP Secretary Rod Nilsestuen said the laws run the "full gamut" of how the sales are allowed.

Massey writes for The Country Today, a rural life newspaper published by the Eau Claire Press Co. He can be reached at 608-574-8011 or

1 comment:

One of the biggest causes of food poisoning in the US is eating raw oysters. Yet, it is still legal to sell these at any restaurant.

There's no reason to continually outlaw the sale of raw milk. If a producer is careful to take good care of their animals, maintain and clean equipment, and follow a few other guidelines, raw milk is perfectly safe and, as the article points out, can be very good for you. Any authorized raw-milk producer should definitely have to follow some established regulations for their operation, but we should make the sale of this product legal. It will provide another way for producers to maket their products, and allow those who desire the product to purchase it with more ease

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