The raw milk debate continues as Montana moves closer to allowing some dairy farmers an exemption from its mandatory pasteurization requirements.

According to the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, the Montana House has backed House Bill 574, which would create a small herd exemption from current mandatory milk pasteurization requirements. In the bill, consumers - not dairy farmers - would be responsible from illnesses resulting from consuming contaminated raw milk products.  

Click here to read the bill’s full text.  

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Champ Edmunds, reports that the bill has gained widespread support across the state, and the bill overwhelmingly passed an initial vote in the House. Read more here.

Despite Edmunds’ glowing praise of the bill, the state’s dairy industry is concerned that it could “undermine” the industry.

“We are concerned about the Pandora’s Box that would be opened if a consumer has a bad experience from consuming raw milk,” Mark Meyer, of the Montana Milk Producers Association, said. “It would negatively impact the milk industry as a whole here in Montana.”

Read, “Dairy farmer: Montana raw milk bill would 'undermine' industry.”

Raw milk is a hot topic for many dairy states and continues to weigh on state legislatures as they weigh public safety with consumer freedoms. In Indiana, as the state’s General Assembly mulled legalizing milk sales in stores, lawmakers turned to the Indiana Board of Animal Health to study the safety of raw milk. The report concluded that the sale of raw milk to consumer carried too much risk to be supported, and lawmakers have since backed off in legalizing raw milk sales. Read more here.

Even raw milk advocates can’t deny that raw milk has its risks. Currently, 24 people have been sickened in a raw milk outbreak in Alaska, including an infant. Of those 24 confirmed cases, two have required hospitalization. Read about the outbreak. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have also reported that raw milk is the most common food to send consumers to the hospital and is 150 times more likely to cause a disease outbreak than pasteurized milk.