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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Washington State Legislature may consider loosening raw milk rules

It seems a nearly everyday occurrence that the raw milk lobby tries to change some state law related to raw milk production and consumption. The new bill in Washington (a state that already allows for certified raw milk dairies to sell raw milk products on farm and retail) would be “AN ACT Relating to direct sales of milk; and adding a new section to chapter 15.36 RCW.” Here is the actual language: BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 12.32.29 PM.pngNEW SECTION. Sec. 1. A new section is added to chapter 15.36 RCW to read as follows:

(1) This chapter does not apply to milk sold directly to the consumer at the premises where produced if:

(a) The milk is produced on a small farm; and

(b) The milk is not advertised for sale.

(2) As used in this section, “small farm” means a location where there are no more than two producing dairy cows, nine producing sheep, or nine producing goats on the premises where milk is produced.

In essence, this amendment would exclude from any regulation raw milk sales that occur on a farm if the farm has no more that two cows, nine sheep or goats.

  • Carla

    I am thrilled about this and will be talking to my legislators, asking them to vote yes!
    My husband grew up on a dairy farm, and we used to be able to get raw milk easily. The past year, I’ve been trying to find a local farm to get milk from, and it is impossible! If I’m going to buy it, I’d rather get it directly from the farm that it comes from. That way I can see the cleanliness, and the cows that it comes from.
    Why? Because most farmers and dairymen take quality care of their cows… not like the HSUS implies. After all, these livestock are not cheap. It isn’t cheap to feed them, either. The equipment isn’t cheap. You don’t treat you livestock poorly, you treat them well. I am more suspect of the processing plants rather than the farmer.

  • Randy Francisco

    Carla: Unfortunately we can’t count on all the dairy farmers in the state of Washington to produce a clean product. Do you read the newspapers? When a child is fed a contaminated product and ends up in the hospital with serious health problems, will you be there to comfort them and pay for their treatment? We all end up paying for the treatment.
    How do you know your producer clean enough? Do you eyeball it?

  • Alan

    Randy, I get tired of people using the “child card.” Should we not allow children in cars because they get hurt and killed in accidents because they can’t drive and have no say in where they’re going? Stay on topic. It’s about milk and safety, not about children. That’s an emotional manipulative technique to drive people off topic.

  • Randy Francisco

    Sorry, I meant: “How do you know your product is clean enough?”

  • Dog Doctor

    Alan, we will not talk about “child card” if the raw milk zealots will stop claiming it will cure all ills from autism to cancer or other undocumented or impossible claims. You can find an interesting article at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com/2011/01/28/raw-milk-no-thanks/
    “I’m at a loss to see why we would want to make it easier for consumers to buy a product that comes with clear, documented health risks. People need look no further than Gibbon in southern Minnesota, where raw milk sold at a dairy farm was linked last year to at least eight cases of E. coli, three cases of Campylobacter and four cases of cryptosporidium. Those stricken included a child who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and is sometimes fatal.
    This was not an isolated incident. After the state Health Department began investigating the outbreak traced to the Gibbon farm, 47 other reports of illnesses linked to the consumption of raw milk were identified across the state. Most of them involved children and young adults.”
    Alan, yes we read last time you have consume raw milk for years safely congratulations. Notice this article talks about both children and adults unfortunately E. coli O157:H7 has a more severe impact on children and the elderly than average adult.
    If you want to talk about milk safety that is why public health officials have been advocacy for pasteurization before there was an FDA or Monsanto because it made good and scientific sense, If you want to talk about what humans have done for 100’s or 1000’s of years, we can go back to barbers bleeding to cure diseases and surgeons not washing their hands or using anesthetic.
    Below is a list of articles about pathogens in raw milk, if you think it is only the big bad dairies, you can find similar results in counties where they only have organic dairies.
    http://www.vri.cz/docs/vetmed/52-6-223.pdf “Bulk tank milk somatic cell count and sources of raw milk contamination with mastitis pathogens”- this is from the Czech Republic. From the University of Tennessee extension “Bulk Tank Milk Quality” http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/wfiles/W149.pdf. Average herd TN dairy herd approximately 100 cows. Pennsylvania extension service article “http://vbs.psu.edu/extension/focus-areas/mastitis/bulk-tank-milk/btm.htm” Herd level information and bulk tank milk analysis: Tools for improving milk quality and herd udder health. An article from journal of dairy science
    A Survey of Foodborne Pathogens in Bulk Tank Milk and Raw Milk Consumption among Farm Families in Pennsylvania. http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0022-0302/PIIS0022030206723189.pdf. From the Canadian Veterinary Journal http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1461414/pdf/cvj47pg567.pdf
    “Prevalence of contagious mastitis pathogens in bulk tank milk in Prince Edward Island.” Average herd size 59 cows, again not CAFO’s. Therefore if you really want to talk about milk safety and what has been published in peer review journals and not about rights or why x, y, or z which is dangerous isn’t outlawed. Here is the information, globally raw milk has some level of human pathogens even though dairyman and their veterinarians work to prevent and they have done a great job, most samples are negative. Unfortunately there are still enough that are positive that the precaution of pasteurization makes good common sense.

  • Nate

    Finally, WA is getting its head on straight. Even if raw milk is being distributed without any “oversight” from food safety, the consumer’s drive to and from the farm will be much more dangerous than consuming the dairy products they purchase there.

  • Randy Francisco

    Alan, who is not staying on topic? Traffic safety is an important but unrelated topic. The topic at hand deals with the safety of raw milk in the State of Washington, who gets hurt, and who pays. On that score raw milk and raw milk cheese producers have a checkered record in this state, or don’t you bother to pay attention?
    Since you mentioned it, we do pay a good deal of attention to traffic safety and driving accountability, but should do more. However, this does not, and should not excuse, culpability for illnesses caused by the raw milk industry. Nor should we stop trying to prevent the documented risks.
    Nate, since you piggybacked on Alan’s comment I would ask why shouldn’t we make both our food products and our transportation safer. We can continue to do both. Risks can be greatly reduced. Why wouldn’t you and Alan want to do that?

  • Nate

    I am in full support of making our food and our transportation safer. Deregulating micro-dairies (2 cows or 9 sheep/goats), so that they can sell extra milk directly off the farm doesn’t necessarily mean a less safe food supply. There are a number of checks and balances inherent in a small dairy:

    1. The farmer and the customer know eachother, often on a first-name basis. This provides communication channels for recalls and contamination concerns that are not present for pasteurized milk or for licenced raw milk dairies.

    2. THe milk must be picked up from the farm. This provides customers with the chance to inspect the farm they’re buying milk from. This check doesn’t exist when milk is purchased from a retail store or farmer’s market.

    3. Small scale production means simpler equipment. As Dog Doctor cited, the contamination in raw milk often comes from the equipment and bulk tanks required for multi-cow milking. If your’e milking 2 cows, you probably have a simple bucket machine milker or even are milking by hand. These methods do not require a CIP system which necessitates continual monitoring and inspection to ensure proper sanitation. Easier clean up means easier sanitation and safer products.

    4. Licensing does not mean safe. As we’ve seen in the past year, licensed dairies (Dungeness, Estrella, Sally Jackson) have gotten people sick.

    5. Small scale family milk cow owners take good care of their animals. These cows are not “pushed” as they are at commerical dairy farms. this means overall better herd health and lower incidence of disease among family milk cows. This is a generality, and there will always be an exception.

    6. These farms are not going to be profit driven. It is impossible to make an living off of 2 cows, so the risks taken by larger producers trying to make ends meet (as we saw with Dungeness, Estrella, and Sally Jackson) will not be taken by these producers. We’re talking about folks who want a family-milk cow lifestyle with a little help from their neighbors on the feed bill.

    7. On-farm raw milk sales are going to happen, so why make the farmers criminals? Instead of using state general funds to shut down these producers, perhaps develop a farmer and consumer fact sheet that outlines good sanitation practices and warning signs.

    So much furvor over raw milk! Raw milk does get people sick, but raw milk does posess unique heath attributes that cannot be found in any other product. Some people feel that the risks of consuming raw milk are outweighed by the benefits. Let them make that choice! Can we have a food system that only offers products without risk? That’s completely impossible!

    Randy, please tell me how allowing micro-dairies to sell milk off farm will lead to an unsafe food system. As far as i can tell, it is going to lead to more tracability, a more secure local food system, higher quality and safer milk as competition between producers arises, and a very small source of revenue for struggling family farms. I am still confident that there are sufficient loopholes in this legislation to provide traction for food poisoning attorneys and thier lawsuits.