Several times over the past two decades, it looked like consumers in Iowa were going to lose their protection from the dangers of raw milk. But, the Iowa legislature has consistently managed to uphold the state’s ban on the sale of unpasteurized milk.
This year could be different. On March 10, the Iowa Senate voted 32 to 15 in favor of Senate Docket 2309. This would open a giant loophole by allowing dairy farms to sell raw milk directly to consumers, either through on-farm sales or through direct delivery.
No resale or retail sale to restaurants, grocery stores or convenience stores would be permitted. Yet SF2309 gives raw milk dairies a market entry that doesn’t exist today, beyond their own families. The same loophole will open up for raw milk products, including cheese, yogurt and ice cream produced with unpasteurized milk.
The Iowa House has just begun its review of the bill.
“Raw milk should only be used for the consumption of the individual, members of his household and his non-paying guests or employees. The raw milk producer shall distribute the raw milk directly to the individual at the raw milk dairy or at a location specified by the individual,” the bill states.
“However, a person must not deliver the raw milk to any place of business where food products are distributed at retail, including, but not limited to, an artisanal bakery regulated under Chapter 137D or a food establishment or a farmers market regulated under Section 137F. ”
The wording of the bill adds: “A raw milk producer may take an order for the distribution of a raw milk product or a raw milk dairy product only to the raw milk dairy of the producer of raw milk where the raw milk product or raw milk dairy product is produced. The raw milk producer shall only distribute the raw milk product or raw milk dairy product to a person who places the order. The producer may distribute the raw milk product or the raw milk dairy product to the individual free of charge or at retail.
Raw milk producers will be required to post their coliform counts and dairy animal testing for review by their customers. And, there is a 3-year records retention requirement.
State Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, told Iowa media that SF2309 renders something legal that is already happening. “I don’t think people in this state should be criminalized for things they choose to do that don’t harm someone else,” Bisignano said.
State Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said the raw milk bill is about access and most states provide some access to raw milk.
On-farm sales and cow-sharing systems are common consumer access routes to raw milk.
Iowa’s retail grocers and traditional dairy industry, as well as the Farm Bureau, oppose SF2309, but opponents have failed to get a consumer warning label included in the draft version. bill that was approved by the Senate.
Raw milk does not go through pasteurization, which involves rapidly heating milk to a high enough temperature for a short time to kill disease germs. Pasteurized milk is milk that has undergone this process
For the past 100 years, almost all milk in the United States has been subjected to pasteurization. The process ended the era when millions of people fell ill and died of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid fever and other diseases transmitted through raw milk.
Pasteurization has kept millions of people from getting sick, according to public health officials. Most public health professionals and health care providers consider pasteurization to be one of the most effective public health food safety interventions.
Distributing more raw milk in a state like Iowa is almost certain to lead to more outbreaks, such as E. coli and Salmonella infections.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raw milk and products made from raw milk pose health risks to consumers.
From 1993 to 2012, 127 outbreaks were reported to the CDC that were linked to raw milk. These outbreaks included 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. Most outbreaks have been caused by Campylobactershigatoxin producer E.coliWhere Salmonella.
A large number of raw milk outbreaks involve children. At least one child under the age of five was involved in 59% of raw milk outbreaks reported to the CDC from 2007 to 2012. Children ages 1 to 4 accounted for 38% of Salmonella diseases in these epidemics and 28 percent of diseases caused by shigatoxins E.coliwhich can lead to kidney failure and death.
The CDC finds that reported outbreaks represent only the tip of the iceberg. Most illnesses are not part of a recognized outbreak, and many more occur for every outbreak and illness reported.
In addition to Iowa, Alaska, Missouri and Georgia are also considering wider distribution of raw milk.
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