Although some producers have reportedly jumped the gun, the legal sale of raw milk begins in Arkansas August 16. Under a new law sponsored by Sen. Bryan King and Rep. Bob Ballinger, producer’s can sell up to 500 gallons of raw cow’s milk and up to 500 gallons of raw goat’s milk per month under certain conditions.
Those conditions include: the raw milk must be sold on-site directly to consumers and may not be resold, retail sales are not permitted, producers must post signage at the farm that the milk sold is unpasteurized, producers must label all raw products as unpasteurized. And purchasers must assume all risk.
And that risk could be considerable. Arkansas has set not standards for raw milk safety, and health and agriculture officials will not be inspecting cows. Consumers can but visual inspections cannot detect microscopic bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers raw milk a high risk food because it contains bacteria, some of which can cause serious or life-threatening illness such as E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Salmonella. Children are at particular risk for food poisoning and are disproportionately affected by raw milk outbreaks.
Currently there are two raw milk recalls in Pennsylvania where raw milk sales are also legal. One is for potential Campylobacter contamination, and another is for potential Listeria contamination. The country’s largest producer of raw milk, Organic Pastures in California, has had four E. coli recalls.