After months of back and forth efforts to permit raw milk sales in Indiana, lawmakers have made it clear that raw milk remains off-limits for human consumption.
According to Food Safety News, last year the Indiana General Assembly was mulling legalizing raw milk sales in stores, and after passing one change in the law requiring raw milk to be labeled as “not for human consumption,” it asked the Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) to complete a study on the safety of raw milk.
The report, “Indiana State Board of Animal Health Report on the Issue of Selling Unpasteurized Milk to Consumers,” released last December, not only examined the risks involved with raw milk consumption but also outlined standards that would be necessary in the event that raw milk sales were legalized.
In the report, the BOAH concluded “that pasteurization is a practice that is highly effective in reducing the risk of human illness from pathogens in raw milk. Distributing raw milk for human consumption will increase the risk that someone will become ill from consuming raw milk. But the decision to authorize or not the sale of unpasteurized milk to consumers is ultimately a political decision.”
Since the BOAH released the report, political interest in legalizing raw milk sales has waned. Several bills that would have permitted raw milk sales (SB 513) and allowed raw milk to be distributed to non-paying guests and family members (DB 610) have since been allowed to die in committee.
Raw milk continues to be the subject of debate for consumers, politicians and the dairy industry. For some, the move to prohibit raw milk sales is driven by big government or the nation’s dairy industry.
“Raw milk is a very political issue,” Kate Yegerlehner, owner of Swiss Connection Farm in Clay City, Ind., told the Associated Press in report available here. “The industry is big business now, and they don’t want the competition of raw milk, because it would really cut into their ability to maintain a profit, I think.”
Across the country, not everyone agrees with Yegerlehner. Last year, after an E. coli outbreak in Missouri caused by raw milk sickened 13 people, one veteran dairy farmer spoke out against the unpasteurized product.
"We've been opposed to this raw milk thing for a long time because it gives dairy farmers a bad name," David Braun, owner of a 120-cow, 400-acre farm in Cole County, Mo., said.
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.