January 22, 2018

West Virginia Governor Vetoes Raw Milk Bill

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a bill that would have legalized herd-share agreements allowing consumers to obtain raw milk bu owning a share in a milk-producing animal.  In his veto message, Gov. Tomlin said signing the bill into law would have posed a serious public health risk.

MilkThe bill (SB30) acknowledged that consuming raw milk poses inherent dangers as it can contain pathogens that are especially harmful to children, pregnant women, seniors and those with compromised immune systems, Tomblin said. “A product with these types of health risks should be subject to more supervision than merely requiring a person to release the seller from liability for such risks. Second, the bill lacks provisions regarding oversight and regulatory authority with respect to sanitation or the handling and storage of raw milk,” he said.

Raw milk is a common source of food poisoning outbreaks. Children are disproportionately affected by these outbreaks.

If the milk is contaminated with E. coli, children are at risk for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a complication of E. coli infections that causes kidney failure, seizure stroke, coma and death.

Campylobacter, the source of most raw milk outbreaks, causes diarrheal illness, fever, and abdominal cramps that can last up to 10 days. In rare cases, campylobacteriosis can trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome, an illness that causes paralysis and death.

Last fall, a Campylobacter raw milk outbreak in Durand, Wisconsin sickened 38 people who attended a potluck for the football team. Ten people were hospitalized.

Public health and medical organizations recommend that infants, children, pregnant women, seniors and those with compromised immune systems only consume pasteurized milk.

A recent literature review performed by the  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health confirmed that pasteurized milk is the safer choice. “Based on our review of the scientific evidence, we conclude that drinking raw milk carries an increased risk of foodborne illness as compared to drinking pasteurized milk,” they stated in their report.

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