Bill would legalize sale of raw milk for humans

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Raw milk — milk that is unpasteurized and non-homogenized — is prized for the antibodies, probiotics and enzymes it contains, and for its delicious taste.

Raw cow and goat milk have become popular as health foods for those seeking a natural diet, and small farmers across Georgia produce and sell raw milk to eager customers.

But the state of Georgia doesn’t allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption. To get around that, raw milk producers must label their milk for “pet use only.”

A new bill introduced in the Georgia legislature aims to change that.

State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, is one of many co-sponsors of House Bill 718, which would allow the sale of “ungraded raw milk” as long as the milk is prominently labeled as such.

“It’s ludicrous to think we can’t buy that product for human consumption,” Stover said. He said he is not a milk drinker, but he is "a person who believes in organic foods and natural foods. That is just where I stand. I feel it is healthier for you.”

If you research the pasteurization process, “it won’t make you feel good about what you are drinking,” Stover said. “This is something people have been asking me for.”

Rep. Scot Turner is the bill’s main sponsor. Georgia is currently one of 17 states that forbid the sale of raw milk for human consumption. It is one of only four that allow the sale for pet food. Only 12 states allow the retail sale of raw milk, with some restrictions. Some other states allow on-farm sales.

Though natural food proponents rave about raw milk, government officials decry it as dangerous.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, from 1998 to 2011, there were 148 separate outbreaks related to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products reported to the CDC. These resulted in 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths. Between 1993 and 2006, there were a total of 121 dairy-related disease outbreaks reported to the CDC. Of those, 60 percent (73 outbreaks) were related to raw milk products.

“You can’t look at, smell or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe,” according to the CDC’s “Trying to Decide about Raw Milk” web page. “If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options."

When pasteurization laws were put into place, milk producers were milking diseased cows. Now, “it is illegal for diseased milk to even be pasteurized and sold,” Stover said.

“In a lot of ways, it is a liberty and freedom bill,” Stover said. “It is your freedom to consume what you want to consume.”

If people can’t choose to drink raw milk, “What else are we going to ban? Are we going to ban meats that aren’t fully cooked?”

Organic farmer Scott Tyson, of 180 Degree Farm in Sharpsburg, doesn’t produce raw milk, but he and his family drink a lot of it.

“I think it’s a long time coming,” he said of the legalization proposal. “The government gets so bogged down with telling us what we can and can’t do as far as food freedoms go. I think it is something every person can choose” whether or not to consume, he said. “If you get clean milk from a farmer who does it right it’s safe and delicious and healthy,” Tyson said.

If you get pasteurized milk “from something that is unclean and something gets in it after pasteurization” you could get extremely sick, he said.

For a long time, raw milk “has been demonized as potentially dangerous,” Tyson said.

In reality, it is “chock full of good bacteria,” if it is produced in a clean facility, Tyson said. “It’s one of the best foods in the world for you. It populates your colon and intestines with good bacteria and helps build your immunity.”

In some cases, people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies have found they are able to consume raw milk without any problems, according to a study by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Tyson said that his two young sons “haven’t been to the doctor” for a sickness “in years and years. They just don’t get sick,” he said. He attributes that to the time they spend playing outside and their diet, including raw milk and lacto-fermented foods. “It all seems to play a part in the overall nutrition and health of the body,” Tyson said.

When drinking raw milk, though, it’s important to start slow, to get your body used to it, according to Tyson. Or you may have some “uncomfortableness.” He recommends no more than a half a cup a day for the first few days.



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