July 18, 2018

Wyoming Steps Closer to Legal Raw Milk, More Food Poisoning, Critics Charge

A bill that would legalize the sale of raw milk and home-grown food has passed both houses of the Wyoming State Legislature. But critics say the bill, called the Food Freedom Act, contains no consumer protections and will put people at risk for serious illness and death from food poisoning. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle editorial page said a better name for the bill would be the Food Illness Bill.

The Wyoming Senate voted 20-8, with one abstention, to pass the bill. Criticism of the bill does not fall along part lines. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper  and Sen. Fred Emerich, R-Cheyenne are all opposed to the idea. Before a fine version heads to Gov. Matt Mead, it will likely be sent to a conference committee.

MilkBecause it is not pasteurized, raw milk can contain pathogens such as E.coli and Campylobacter which cause can cause serious illness and death. Children are disproportionately affected by raw milk outbreaks.

In Wyoming, cow and goat share programs are currently legal. On average, eight cases of illnesses linked to contaminated raw milk are reported annually

Nationwide, the number of raw milk outbreaks has been increasing as raw milk gains in popularity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study in Emerging Infectious Diseases shows the number of raw milk outbreaks increased from 30 in 2007-2009, to 51 in 2010- 2012. Those outbreaks resulted in 979 illness and 73 hospitalizations.

Most raw milk outbreaks take place in states where the sale of raw milk is legal. But there’s a domino affect, according to the report. Making raw milk legal in one state leads to outbreaks in neighboring states. One example, is a Campylobacter outbreak from raw milk produced by Family Cow in Pennsylvania. That outbreak sickened at least 80 people in four states, including Maryland, West Virginia, and New Jersey, all of which prohibit the sale of raw milk. The case patients who did not live in Pennsylvania traveled to that state specifically to buy the raw milk.

Campylobacter is the source of  most raw milk outbreaks. It causes an illness in humans called campylobacteriosis which produces 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.

All but five of those sickened were high school students who suffered days of illness, fevers as high as 105˚F and weight loss. So many football players were sick for so long that two games had to be canceled.

The milk was provided by a parent who did not tell potluck guestsit was unpasteurized. The farm, which was linked through epidemiological evidence to the outbreak, had its Grade A license suspended for 30 days. But the owners still maintain that the milk was not the outbreak source.

Fred Pritzker, a food safety attorney who has represented clients sickened by raw milk and debated supporters at the Harvard Law Society has likened drinking raw milk to playing Russian Roulette. Wh

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