A Dangerous New Raw Milk Bill

Volume 140, No. 24, Friday, December 4, 2015

For the fourth time in seven years, a Wisconsin legislator has drafted a bill to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk to consumers at dairy farms. Exempting these farms from any licensing or product testing, this bill is more dangerous than the three failed bills before it.

Raw milk advocates in Wisconsin have been frustrated by a veto by Governor Jim Doyle in 2010 and current Governor Scott Walker’s expressed concern for the welfare and safety of Wisconsin children and families when discussing his misgivings with raw milk legislation.

A new bill, introduced in November by State Rep. David Murphy, a Republican serving Outagamie and Winnebago counties, reflects the frustration of the raw milk pushers. The bill strips all oversight of these farms, removing even the simple requirement for a $30 dairy farm license from a farm that sells only raw milk or raw milk dairy products to consumers.

Raw milk advocates want their dairy producers off the radar, unlicensed and uncoupled from all milk testing, sanitation and quality standards.

“The standards applicable to the production of milk and fluid milk products under this chapter do not apply to unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk products” from these raw-milk-only
farms, the bill states.

Yet it’s difficult to hide from the facts. During the years 1998-2011 a total of 148 outbreaks associated with unpasteurized milk consumption were reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of illnesses associated with these outbreaks were caused by Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, Campylobacter or Listeria. Notably, children are particularly affected by illness associated with consuming unpasteurized milk; among the 148 outbreaks reported to the CDC, 82 percent of outbreak reports with patient age data included illness among children or adolescents.

Wisconsin experienced two high-profile raw milk incidents in recent years. In September 2014, 38 people including 33 students were sickened by the pathogenic bacteria Campylobacter jejuni during a high school football team dinner featuring raw milk in Durand, WI. Ten were hospitalized or sought care in an emergency center.

In June 2011, 16 fourth graders in Racine county, WI, fell ill due to consumption of raw milk infected with Campylobacter jejuni bacteria. A parent brought raw milk from a local farm and the matching bacterial strain was found in milk produced at the farm. One child was hospitalized.

Pasteurization kills E. coli, Campylobacter and Listeria.

Previous Wisconsin raw milk bills conceded that licensing these farms and testing the raw milk for dangerous pathogens, antibiotic drug residues, somatic cells and more on a regular basis was the least farmers can do for their customers.

The new Murphy bill requires nothing: No labeling, no standards for the cleanliness of the farm, no inspection of the milk bottling equipment, no milk quality tests, no temperature requirements for the milk sold to consumers, no pathogen testing. Nothing.

Raw milk is promoted like modern snake oil, touted as more nutritional than pasteurized milk, a cure for allergies and lactose intolerance and full of microflora and antimicrobial systems. Yet, in a recent peer-reviewed paper in Nutrition Today, Dr. John Lucey with the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin concluded, “Claims related to improved nutrition, prevention of lactose intolerance, or provision of ‘good’ bacteria from the consumption of raw milk have no scientific basis and are myths.”

A bill that allows dairy farms to provide untested, unmonitored perishable foods to consumers runs counter to every improvement in food safety in the last 8o years. Consumer outrage over contaminated products in the meat, vegetable and even dairy industry have produced the US Food Safety Modernization Act, a growing web of third-party food plant audits and worldwide adoption of sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

The Murphy bill is the most dangerous raw milk bill yet proposed in Wisconsin. Its callous disregard for the safety of consumers is disturbing. JU

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org


Other John Umhoefer Columns

 Wisconsin Makes Its Case Out West
 Dancing with the Devil in the Details
 Phosphorus’ Final Act
 20 Years of Change In One Bite
 The Whey Problem and California’s Solution
 The System Works - March 6, 2015
 100 Years of Success
 Thoughts for a Dairy Forum
 A Different Dairy Scene in 2015
 The Truth About Animal Care
 A Regulatory Hat Trick
 Flawed Security Program Bilks Wisconsin Dairy
 Leading Cheese Producers
 Success by the Numbers
 It’s Time for Training
 Exports Trump Farm Bill
 Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute’s 20-20 Vision
 Addressing Wastewater Head On
 Knowledge Opportunities Abound
 Say No to an Extreme Raw Milk Bill
 A Generation's Gift
 Government-Induced Uncertainty
 Decades Ahead on Food Safety
 Wisconsin’s Hot Winter
 A Successful Campaign for Babcock
 Ireland: Gearing Up For Growth
 Mired in Wash Water
 Less Government, More Dairy
An Interview With Jim Sartorii
The Other Solids Price Crush
 The Policy Answer Is Exports
 Rolling The Dice On Dairy Reforms
 Productive Changes In Wisconsin

 The Successful Idea Of DBIC
 Cheese Cuts Both Ways: Consolidation and Growth
 IDFA's Deep Dairy Reforms
 Wisconsin In The Spotlight
 An Overbuilt Foundation
 What the New Governor Means To Wisconsin
 No Man's Land
 Dairy & Wisconsin’s New Leadership
Wisconsin Cheese Is Investing, Expanding
 Talking Competition
 Being Big Dairy
Upper Midwest Prospects in 2010
Upper Midwest Growth: Perspectives From The Farm
Blue Skies or Bust
Pushing Back Against A Tough 2009
Support Demand, Not Price
Dairy: A Good Bet in a Bad Economy
Wisconsin's Future: Growth
Keeping Sustainability Real
Nose Dive
Dairy Dives into 2009
Consider This...
 Fulls Vats
Implement Make Allowances ASAP
Security Reforms
Spring Forward
A Week of Clarity

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