Raw Milk Debate Heats Up in Congress


4/1/2014 1:27 PM

It seems that every year, with the greening of the grass, the raw milk debate kicks into high gear. One side lists the reasons people should not drink unpasteurized milk. The other side stresses the right of choice.
The latest battle is unique. It is not about a state deciding to legalize raw milk sales or what raw milk products to sell, but to allow raw milk sales across state lines.
The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014, a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., would repeal a long-standing ban on sales across state lines of unpasteurized milk. States have the discretion to regulate raw milk within their own borders.
It’s a move that many raw milk advocates like, but, as expected, several dairy processing and farmer groups have mobilized to push for its rejection.
The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation said in a press release that “the risks inherent in raw dairy products are not worth any imagined benefits to either consumers or producers of unpasteurized milk products. Raw milk skips the pasteurization safety process.”
The groups describe drinking raw milk as like “playing Russian roulette with the health” of Americans. And there is plenty of science backing their concerns over the growing number of illnesses reported by the Centers for Disease Control from raw milk.
Raw milk continues to provoke strong debates with groups like The Weston A. Price Foundation, which mobilizes supporters for the cause. According to a recent article by Politico, the foundation more than doubled its fundraising — a measure of the growing interest in raw milk — between 2009 and 2011, according to the group’s tax filings. It raised about $240,000 in 2009 and nearly $530,000 in 2011.
The CDC and FDA have long warned of the risks of raw milk, but there is a growing number of raw milk supporters for whom the science does not matter. They want the choice of drinking raw milk.
Kimberly Hartke, a spokeswoman for The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Campaign for Real Milk, told Politico that any changes on raw milk regulation on the federal level might be tough to achieve, but she remains confident her side will prevail.
“It’s basically just the grass-roots’ hard work, energy and enthusiasm that’s making the difference,” Hartke said. “And ultimately that will win the day.”
-- Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor

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