A major food industry trade organization is spearheading the opposition to the legalization of raw milk sales and the easing of restrictions throughout the United States.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is urging legislators throughout the country to not relax restrictions on its sale.
“Loosening the regulations surrounding raw milk … would be a step in the wrong direction,” the IDFA wrote in a letter concerning one specific bill in Virginia. “While choice is an important value, it should not pre-empt consumers’ well-being. Legalizing the state-wide sale of raw milk and milk products is an unnecessary risk to consumer safety.”
The same letter said that “consumption of raw milk is a demonstrated public health risk.”
“The link between raw milk and foodborne illness has been well-documented in the scientific literature, with evidence spanning nearly 100 years,” it added.
Raw milk sales in stores are legal in 12 states. An additional 17 states only allow it on farms, while four states permit it through cow-sharing, according to Food Business News, a trade publication.
The IDFA’s vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs, Cary Frye, defended her organization’s actions in a recent Food Business News story under the headline, “Halting the raw milk  movement.”
“Raw milk from cows, sheep or goats can have harmful bacteria that affect the health of anyone who drinks it or eats foods made from raw milk,” Frye said. “The dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria found in raw milk are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses and are especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women and children.”
Frye claimed that “science has clearly debunked” the “myths about the benefits of raw milk.”
The IDFA, the National Milk Producers Federation, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all oppose the sale of raw milk.
Supporters of raw milk say that milk from grass-fed cows is more nutrition-rich, boosts the immune system, and helps protect against allergic reactions.
The Food Business News story sparked a heated exchange in the comments.
“Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens,” one reader, Sally Fallon Morell, wrote. “Of course this protective system of bioactive components can be overwhelmed in milk coming from very dirty conditions, like confinement dairies. But we have the knowledge and technology today to produce clean, safe, raw milk for everyone — instead we use our technology to destroy nature’s perfect food.”
Another reader, Ken Conrad, wrote, “As a dairy farmer, I have been drinking raw milk for over 56 years and have raised nine children on it. Many relatives and friends have come to visit us on the farm and have drunk raw milk. For over two decades there were up to five families who purchased raw milk from me on a daily basis and raised their children on it with no ill affect.”
West Virginia’s legislature recently passed a bill that would allow raw milk consumption through cow-sharing. The governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, vetoed a raw milk bill last year.
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