Rift Between Pasteurized And Raw Milk Advocates Widens

With the rising regulatory fervor over food safety, even milk producers and state agencies are split over the marketing of raw milk.

Published on: Feb 11, 2013

Many dairy states, such as Pennsylvania, New York and smaller New England neighbors, allow for tightly regulated raw milk sales. The National Milk Producers Federation is dead-set against it. American Farm Bureau Federation doesn't support it. And a recently released Center for Disease Control report confirmed health risks related to unpasteurized dairy products.

Nonetheless, numerous dairy farm groups strongly rail against outlawing raw milk sales. Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation formally dissented the AFBF policy. State President A. Richard Bonanno explains: "At least 37 states allow some form of raw milk sales, including Massachusetts. We believe that properly-regulated raw milk sales are a marketing opportunity for family farms."

MO-O-RE RAW MILK? Latest CDC findings will make it tougher to legislate expansion of raw dairy product sales.
MO-O-RE RAW MILK? Latest CDC findings will make it tougher to legislate expansion of raw dairy product sales.

That's why MFBF joined with the Northeast Organic Farming Association in sponsoring legislation  that would allow Massachusetts farmers to expand sales of raw milk beyond the farm gate. They would be able to deliver raw milk products to consumers either directly or through a contractor.

For many dairy producers, this could be key to their survival, in a state where land, labor and regulatory costs are among the highest in the nation, adds Bonanno. Currently, Massachusetts consumers must go to the farm to buy raw milk.

"Sales of raw milk in our state are strictly regulated by the Department of Agricultural Resources, and we have a stellar safety record," Bonanno states. "We have confidence that the existing regulations will ensure that proper standards remain in place to assure consumer safety."

CDC links raw dairy foods to foodborne illnesses
The CDC report noted that unpasteurized dairy foods were the second leading source of viral and bacterial problems. And that was related to raw milk products, points out Jerry Kozak, NMPF president and CEO.

According to the report, 14% of food-related illnesses and 10% of food-related deaths from 1998 to 2008 occurred from dairy products. Only leafy greens had a higher incidence of illness.

Part of the reason why dairy products were commonly linked to foodborne illness is that their level of consumption is high. Many Americans eating some form of dairy product every day.

The other reason is that the consumption of raw fluid milk and home-made cheeses made from raw milk, continues to grow. The CDC report is "a compelling illustration of why NMPF has asked federal and state regulators and legislators to more aggressively oppose efforts, many of them at the state level, to expand the sales and availability of raw milk," adds Kozak. "The purported benefits of the products over pasteurized milk have no scientific validity and are impossible to prove, but the health risks are clear, as this report indicates."

CDC evaluated more than 4,500 food-borne disease outbreaks from 1998 to 2008. You can study the full report by clicking on Emerging Infectious Diseases