It’s illegal to sell raw milk in Iowa, but a bill to allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk from their farms has cleared an initial hurdle at the statehouse.
Current state law forbids the sale of milk that hasn’t been pasteurized and Iowa’s dairy industry supports the law. Mark Truesdell, a lobbyist for the Iowa Dairy Foods Association, says allowing the sale of raw milk is going “180 degrees” in the wrong direction.
“In the 1930s, pasteurization developed as a movement by public-minded people who saw illnesses being spread by milk,” Truesdell says.
Two weeks ago nearly 40 people in four states were diagnosed with an intestinal illness that was traced to raw milk from a Pennsylvania farm. Truesdell says the dairy industry welcomes laws which require pasteurization and forbid the sale of raw milk.
“We realize we must be partners in our vigilance of protection the public health against the pathogens that can be and history shows are spread by milk,” Truesdell says.
But a three-member panel in the Iowa House has given its approval to the sale of raw milk here and the proposal now awaits consideration in the House Judiciary Committee. Francis Thicke, a dairy farmer from Fairfield, says the benefits of raw milk outweigh the risks.
“Somebody’s done an analysis…The risks of driving on the highway to get the raw milk are many-fold higher than the risks of drinking the raw milk,”
Thicke, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the job of state ag secretary, cites a recent study which indicated European children who’ve been drinking raw milk are less likely to suffer from asthma or hay fever.
“I see this, really, as economic development,” Thicke says. “We’re really limiting this kind of grassroots economic development out in the rural areas by not allowing some raw milk sales and, frankly, consumers are asking for it.”
The federal government prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines, but 30 states allow the sale of raw milk within their borders. Wisconsin rules have effectively banned the sale of raw milk from dairy farms there, while the neighboring states of Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois all allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk to residents in the same state.
The Centers for Disease Control warns raw milk can contain bacteria and pathogens that can seriously sicken or kill you. Raw milk proponents say heating the milk to 162 degrees for 15 seconds — the process of pasteurization — kills beneficial bacteria and stunts the taste of milk.