Raw milk wins in Georgia, leads in Missouri, but dies in Iowa

Gov. Brian P. Kemp earlier this month made a special occasion for his government’s Georgia Grown Farm signage on the Food Bank Legislation (SB396), the law on freedom of agriculture (HB1150) and a bill to expand the agricultural basic education program (HB1303).

Governor Kemp was not yet signing House Bill 1175, the Georgia Raw Dairy Act, which also reached his desk.

There is no known significance to Kemp that does not include the Raw Milk Dairy Act as one of his celebratory meal bills.

Georgia Legislature passed the Raw Milk Dairy Act by a wide margin, making the Peach State the 31st state to allow the sale of raw milk effective July 1, 2023.

According to current legislation, Georgians can buy raw milk. However, it is referred to as “pet milk” and is sold by farms with pet food licenses, which are available for a small fee.

Rep. Clay Pirkle, R-Ashburn, said “pet milk” is never tested or screened for bacteria or somatic cell counts under the current system.

“We have no idea what’s in it,” said Pirkle, sponsor of (HB) 1175.

In support of the bill, he said it would allow raw milk regulation for consumer safety.

But with the passage of the Georgia Raw Dairy Act, lawmakers are betting that sales of regulated raw milk will surpass sales of “pet milk.”

Measurements for raw milk and raw milk products are not readily available as they are relatively small and stagnant. However, Georgia expects consumers to clamor for more raw dairy products over their purported benefits.

Martin Yoder, owner of White House Dairy Farm in Montezuma, GA, told the Georgia Legislature that (HB) 1175 is opening a new market that will potentially triple its income.

Yoder predicted that without change, family-owned dairy farms would be gone within 10 years, leaving Georgia with only about 40 large dairies. A switch to Grade A raw milk is an option that could save some family-owned dairies, he says.

The Raw Dairy Act requires licenses and requirements for raw dairy products for human consumption under food safety regulations under the supervision of the Agriculture Commissioner.

One of these requirements is a warning on the raw milk packaging. It must say, “Warning: This is a raw milk product that is unpasteurized and may increase the risk of foodborne illness.”

Iowa Senate File (SF) 2309 was another raw bill not dissimilar to Georgia’s, but it didn’t get that far.

The Iowa Senate voted 32-15 on March 10 for (SF)2309, which would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers, either on-farm through direct shipments.

But not much happened after the Senate vote. Since it passed the Senate, opposition to SF2309 has dominated.

The Iowa Public Health Association, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship want the bill killed; Iowa Institute for Cooperatives, Iowa Environmental Health Association, Iowa State Dairy Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association; Iowa Food Industry Association; Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Dairy Foods Association.

Coalitions representing pasteurized foods and public health have stopped many raw milk bills in the past, and in Iowa such concerted efforts worked again.

The Iowa Legislature adjourned April 19, not allowing (SF)2309 to gain a foothold in the House of Representatives.

However, Missouri’s House Bill 1977 remains alive, with an adjournment not scheduled until May 20.

On April 25, the House of Missouri voted 124 to 11 to pass HB1977. Another 11 members voted “present”. The Senate put it on the first reading calendar.

The HB1977 bill would legalize the sale of retail “Grade A” raw milk and cream products made in Missouri in grocery stores, restaurants, soda fountains and similar establishments.

The raw milk products would also have to attach and bear warning labels with the following information: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illnesses in children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.”

Raw milk does not undergo pasteurization, which involves rapidly heating milk for a short period of time to a temperature high enough to kill disease-causing compounds germs. Pasteurized milk is milk that has gone through this process

Raw milk and raw milk products pose health risks to consumers, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From 1993 to 2012, 127 outbreaks reported to the CDC were associated with raw milk. These outbreaks included 1,909 cases and 144 hospitalizations. Most outbreaks were caused by campylobacterProducing Shiga toxin E. coli or salmonella.

A large number of raw milk outbreaks affect children. At least one child under the age of five was involved in 59 percent of the raw milk outbreaks reported to the CDC from 2007 to 2012. Children ages 1 to 4 accounted for 38 percent of cases salmonella Diseases in these outbreaks and 28 percent of diseases caused by Shiga toxin production E. coliwhich can lead to kidney failure and death.

The CDC notes that reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. Most diseases are not part of a recognized outbreak, and many others occur with every outbreak and every reported disease.

In the last 100 years almost all milk in the United States has been pasteurized. The process ended the era when millions of people contracted and died from tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid and other diseases transmitted through raw milk.

Pasteurization has saved millions of people from disease. Most healthcare professionals and healthcare providers consider pasteurization to be one of the most effective food safety interventions out there.

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