ELKHART — Legislators either need to outlaw the release of any unpasteurized milk, or they need to allow limited human consumption of unpasteurized milk but regulate that so producers are held to the same standards.
That was the conclusion of a report issued today, Nov. 30, by the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.
The report came after the Indiana Senate moved to allow raw milk sales from any dairy farm with 20 or fewer cows, but the Indiana House countered that move to require the BOAH to weigh in on the issue, according to a summary report by Purdue.
“Even with the known risks associated with consuming unpasteurized milk, some consumers are demanding legal access to raw milk. Advocates assert that raw milk tastes better, is more nutritious and healthier. Advocates assert that they should be free to choose pasteurized or unpasteurized milk and that raw milk presents an economic opportunity for farmers,” the board wrote in the report to the Indiana Legislature.
“Currently individuals are acquiring raw milk from producers through cow or herd share arrangements and pet food sales believing that these transactions are outside the current state statute requiring milk to be pasteurized. The current pasteurization statute does not explicitly contemplate these arrangements, creating uncertainty for regulators, producers and consumers as to the legal status of these transactions and arrangements,” the report continues.
“Both sides of the raw milk debate have sincere deeply held positions on the issue. No consensus middle ground exists between the public health community that wants no raw milk sales to consumers and advocates who want raw milk sales to consumers,” the board reported.
The board believes pasteurization is the safest route and that raw milk increases the risk of sickness, “but the decision to authorize or not the sale of unpasteurized milk to consumers is ultimately a political decision.”
The board offered two suggested options:
Option A. Maintain the current requirement for milk to be pasteurized prior to sale and amend the statute to clarify that all persons producing milk for consumption must comply with state sanitation standards and pasteurize the milk regardless of the method used to distribute the milk, including cow or herd share arrangements and products labeled for pet food.
Option B. Change the current law requiring pasteurization to allow limited distribution of raw milk directly from the farmer producing the milk to consumers and authorize the BOAH to establish minimum sanitary requirements that may reduce the risk of human illness. If Indiana is to move away from the current laws requiring pasteurization of milk and milk products sold to the public, the following principles should be followed:
1. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health should have the authority to adopt rules requiring permits and establishing sanitation standards for raw milk producers.
2. All farmers producing raw milk for consumption should be held to the same standards.
3. The sale of raw milk should be limited to the farmer producing the milk selling directly to consumers.
The report points out that Indiana is one of 20 states that outlaw the sale of raw milk for human consumption. There are 30 states that allow access to raw milk in some manner, but nearly all limit access and regulate the production and distribution.
The sale of raw milk goes on actively in Elkhart County, with dairy farmers offering it for sale for pet consumption or offering cow-share arrangements or herd-share arrangements.