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Group Asks FDA for Interstate Sales of Raw Milk

The federal government doesn't allow raw milk to be sold across state lines because of the health risks associated with lack of pasteurization. (Couleur/Pixabay)
The federal government doesn't allow raw milk to be sold across state lines because of the health risks associated with lack of pasteurization. (Couleur/Pixabay)
May 23, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is being asked to allow sales of raw milk across state lines - something that's been illegal for 30 years.

Virginia has seen occasional disease outbreaks from people drinking unpasteurized milk. But a group known as the Real Food Consumer Coalition says folks have a right to choose it - and is petitioning the FDA to review its ban on interstate transport of raw milk products.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health veterinarian Dr. Megin Nichols, says the more lenient the laws become about raw milk, the more illnesses are reported.

"Raw milk is a very risky product, and whether you're buying that within a state or across state lines, it can result in illness, and illnesses that can be severe and even result in death," she says.

The group petitioning the FDA says permitting interstate transport of raw milk fits with the federal push to roll back regulations and boost commerce, and its members believe raw milk has health benefits that outweigh the risks.

But this year, a bill to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk in Virginia didn't make it out of committee in the House of Delegates.

The petition says farmers and retailers should be able to market their raw milk in other states if it is labeled with proper warnings and safe-handling instructions. That includes information about self-pasteurization - which Nichols sees as a gamble since so many types of bacteria are heat resistant.

"So, for example, 'Q fever' is one type of illness that can result from drinking raw milk, and it can be very, very difficult to kill," she adds. "In addition to that, we recommend pasteurization because of all the different ways raw milk can become contaminated."

Current laws about selling raw milk vary widely, with more than 20 states - including Virginia - allowing it only for people who pay for "cow shares" to get milk directly from a farm. Last spring, the state health department traced an E. coli outbreak that infected 16 people to a Virginia cow-share program.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - VA