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The two organizations representing America’s dairy farmers and dairy foods companies jointly announced their opposition to a U.S. Senate proposal that would allow interstate sales of raw milk.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill, No. 2180, that would allow the direct sale of raw milk and raw milk products across state lines, “greatly enhancing the chances that people will become sick because of increased consumption of unpasteurized milk,” the two groups said in a letter sent to members of the Senate.
“Pasteurization is one of the greatest public health tools. To compromise or reduce its use through this legislation is not just bad politics – it’s a huge, inhumane step backwards, and one that will cause sickness and death,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents dairy farmers.
Federal law currently prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk, but allows states individual discretion to regulate raw milk sales within their borders. Several states in recent years have liberalized sale or distribution of raw milk, even as the product has been repeatedly linked to serious illnesses from coast to coast.
“The link between raw milk and foodborne illness has been well-documented in the scientific literature, with evidence spanning nearly 100 years, said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, the leading dairy processor trade group. “Raw milk is a key vehicle in the transmission of human pathogens, which is why its consumption has been opposed by every major health organization in the United States, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
Kozak said that lawmakers have to keep in mind that “nearly two-thirds of all outbreaks associated with raw milk or raw milk products involve children. It is the responsibility of our nation’s leaders to make decisions to protect the health of the American public, most especially, those who are minors and are unable to make fully informed decisions that could have profound consequences for the rest of their lives."
Tipton said: “While consumer choice is an important value, it should not pre-empt public health and well-being. Legalizing the sale of raw milk and raw milk products to consumers, either through direct sale or through cow-share programs, represents an unnecessary risk to consumer safety."
The Senate is expected to begin debating this and other amendments to the Farm Bill this week.