July 15, 2024

Is Drinking Raw Milk a Right?

Is drinking raw milk a right? Raw milk advocates in Wisconsin say that’s a question they want the state Supreme Court to decide and they say they plan to file petitions this week to make that happen.

Milking CowsBecause it is considered a public health risk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk. Any milk sold across state lines must be pasteurized. Although the FDA advises that states also allow the sale of pasteurized milk only, each state is free to determine its own raw milk regulations.

Seventeen states have a complete ban. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan,Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Eleven states allow retail sales, they include: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington. The remaining 22 states allow on-farm sales or sales through a herd-share program.  In Wisconsin, licensed farms are permitted to make on-farm sales.

Raw milk advocates expected to file petitions this week are Mark and Petra Zinniker of Walworth County; Grassway Organics Farm Store in New Holstein and Vernon Hershberger of Loganville. None of the operations are licensed. The Zinnikers lost their license in 2009 after a Campylobacter outbreak linked to their milk sickened 35 people.

As Wisconsin raw milk enthusiasts advocate for change, Kentucky is grappling with a poignant reminder of the dangers of raw milk.  Four children in Kentucky were recently hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from raw milk. HUS is a condition that develops in some E.coli cases that causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke, coma and death. The youngest patient is an 18-month old who has been receiving dialysis.

These dangers are the reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers raw milk a high-risk food and an ongoing public health. And it is because children are at high risk for developing HUS and other serious complications of food poisoning that the American Academy of Pediatrics wants raw milk sales banned. They are joined by a host of medical, scientific and public health organizations including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  the American Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the International Association for Food Protection, the National Environmental Health Association, and the World Health Association in endorsing the consumption of pasteurized milk and milk products only for pregnant women, infants, and children.


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