Friday, April 13, 2012

Kicking the Raw Milk Can Down the Road

This past year a bill was proposed in Indiana to legalize the sale of "raw" milk.  The bill was met with a firestorm of criticism from industry groups and dairy farmers who view the sale of unpasteurized milk as dangerous and unfair, since "raw" milk does not have to pass the same milk quality inspections as Grade A store-bought milk.  Ultimately, the legalization of raw milk was defeated, but that is not the end of the road for raw milk sales in Indiana.

Buried in the end of House Bill 1129 (HB 1129), which was passed and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels, was a provision requiring the State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) to "conduct a study of the issue of farmers selling unpasteurized milk to consumers."   That's it.  The rest of the details are left up to BOAH, including the how, what, or who should be included in the study.  The study must be concluded by November 1, 2012 and reported to the governor by December 1, 2012.

Here's my list of questions for BOAH as it undertakes this process:
1. Can raw milk be sold in a way that minimizes the potential health dangers?
2. If raw milk sales are legalized, what warning labels should be required?
3. How can raw milk products be regulated so that they meet all other standards (aside from pasteurization) applicable to grade A milk? For example, regular store-bought milk is tested for antibiotic residue but raw milk sold on the black market lacks such tests.
4. How extensive are raw milk sales on the black market today? If raw milk sales are legalized and regulated, will these black market sellers disappear or continue to sell raw milk anyway?
5. How have other states regulated raw milk sales?
6. Does the likelihood of raw milk related illness increase in places where it is legal?
7. Is products liability insurance coverage available to sellers of raw milk, so that those farmers wishing to sell raw milk are insured in the case of illness?  Would such insurance be required along with a license to sell raw milk?
I look forward to BOAH's raw milk report.  Feel free to add your own list of questions in the comments below and I will gladly share with BOAH officials.

To read about what Indiana law currently says about raw milk sales, continue reading after the jump, click here.

By Todd Janzen

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