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Raw milk rule change will increase risk of illness: IDFA, NMPF

By Mark Astley+

28-Mar-2014

Raw milk rule change will increase risk of illness: IDFA, NMPF

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have called on US lawmakers to reject proposed legislation that would overturn the current ban on the interstate sale of raw milk.

In a joint statement, the dairy industry representatives yesterday urged politicians in Washington to reject two bills - the Milk Freedom Act of 2014 and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 - introduced by Congressman Thomas Massie.

If passed, the Milk Freedom Act of 2014 would provide relief to those who have been “harassed, fined and in some cases even prosecuted” for distributing raw milk. It would also prevent the federal government interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products.

The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 would meanwhile prohibit the government from interfering with the sale of unpasteurized milk and milk products between states that allow the distribution or sale of such products.

In their statement, the IDFA and the NMPF warned that cases of illness and death through consumption will increase if unpasteurized milk is made more readily available.

“…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, and this is playing Russian roulette with the health of too many Americans – including many of our children," said the organizations.

"Criminalization of dairy farmers"

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and a coalition of 18 other lawmakers joined Massie in introducing the two bills. 

In a statement, Massie called on the US government to stop punishing farmers for "providing customers the foods they want and states" and proclaimed that "states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety."

“As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers," said Massie. "Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from our farms by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently prohibits the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption. Raw milk “can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks,” the FDA claims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) holds the same opinion. “While is it possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all,” the CDC website states.

Despite these warnings, many US states permit the sale of raw milk within state lines.

A total of 10 states, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, permit the retail sale of unpasteurized milk products. On-farm sales are also legal in 15 states, it says.

Healthier alternative?

Many raw milk advocates see raw milk as a healthier alternative and believe that the pasteurization process destroys many beneficial nutrients.

One group, the Campaign for Real Milk, claims on its website that raw milk “contains enzymes and encourages beneficial bacteria that contribute to easy digestion and ensure that all the vitamins and minerals are absorbed.”

“Pasteurization warps and distorts the enzymes and other protein in milk,” it adds.

Addressing such claims, the CDC states: “While it’s true that the heating process of pasteurization does inactivate some enzymes in milk, the enzymes in raw animal milk are not thought to be important in human health.”

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