WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Some legislators say it should be easier for Minnesota consumers to buy raw milk, a position that puts them at odds with health regulators and most of the state’s dairy industry

Companion bills introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate on Thursday would legalize direct farm-to-consumer sales of unpasteurized milk at farmers markets, as well as deliveries to private homes and private buying clubs. Current state law allows sales of unpasteurized milk only at the farms that produce it.

No action is scheduled so far on the bills, which were introduced by three Senate Republicans and four House Republicans, but they come amid a crackdown by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on raw milk sales, including a legal battle with southern Minnesota dairy farmer Michael Hartmann. The state alleges milk from his dairy near Gibbon has sickened at least 15 people. Hartmann has denied that anyone got sick from his milk, but last month Judge Rex Stacey said after reviewing the evidence he had “no doubt” the state was right, and ordered the destruction of raw milk, cheese and yogurt Hartmann had in storage.

The Hartmann case has brought Minnesota deeper into a national debate over the wisdom of consuming unpasteurized dairy products at a time when natural, unprocessed foods grow in popularity. Advocates contend raw milk is a natural, healthy product and that they should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to accept those risks. Supporters say pasteurization — the process that kills harmful bacteria and extends shelf life — also destroys beneficial nutrients and enzymes.

But critics say raw milk is anything but healthy, and that it can harbor E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria and other diseases. Between 1998 and 2008, there were 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths from consumption of raw milk, according to Food and Drug Administration figures.

Across the border in Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle last year vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers on their farms. He said he wanted to protect public health, and was concerned about any outbreak of illnesses from unpasteurized milk could affect the $26 billion dairy industry in the state that bills itself as “America’s Dairyland.”

Wisconsin allows incidental sales of raw milk, but dairy farmers who supported the bill said the state was cracking down on anyone who sold to regular customers or more than a few occasional gallons.

Around 19 states allow direct sales of raw milk from dairy farmers to individuals, while nine other states permit retail sales. Measures to liberalize rules are under consideration in several other states.

Minnesota’s crackdown has largely ended what the state says are illegal deliveries and sales of raw milk at Twin Cities drop sites. Raw milk supporter Greg Schmidt of St. Paul said many consumers are now driving several hours to a farm to get unpasteurized milk.

“This is a legal product in the state,” Schmidt told Minnesota Public Radio. “But this burden that forces consumers to go to the farm to procure it just doesn’t make any sense on any level.”

Bob Lefebvre, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, which represents dairy farmers who pasteurize their milk, told MPR any easing of restrictions on raw milk sales would be dangerous. If anything, he said, the state should tighten regulation of raw milk even more. He said any farms selling it should be regularly inspected and tested by the state. They aren’t now.

Commenting on the Minnesota bill, Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in foodborne illness cases, wrote on his blog Thursday that while he would never let his children drink raw milk, he wouldn’t advocate banning it either.

Marler wrote that it should be sold only on farms that are certified by the state and inspected and tested regularly, not in grocery stores or across state lines. He said farms should also be required to have insurance coverage sufficient to cover reasonable damages to their customers. And he said strongly worded warning signs should be mandatory on the bottles and at the point-of-purchase.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (32)
  1. Flippen crazy says:

    gotta love, I mean really love, the GOP baffoons.
    I mean heck – there isn’t a regulation they aren’t trying to undo (well- they love those that protect corporations of course 😉 )
    We soon will all be toting .45’s, the kids in schools will be taught by former Target and Macy’s sales clerks who didn’t quit cut it out there, and now we get to get raw milk to get sick from – can’t reulate anything raw now can we. lol

    What’s next I wonder as they unleash their crazy plans on the state? I know ol’ T-Paw hit the news with the idea that states should maybe use bankruptcy to unburden themselves. Funny – the GOP tightened up the personal BK rules a few years back but for a company and government it’s okay in the GOP mind.
    Don’t they love to call on everyone for personal responsibilty and accountability? LMAO – the great GOP. Just as sleazy as any other party. Maybe more so

    1. Bryce and Jenny Murphy says:

      This response is for “Flippen Crazy”. The point of this article is that people are desiring to exercise the “right” to purchase and consume raw milk. There is no legislation being proposed to “force” people to drink raw milk, rather to allow them to purchase the raw milk more conveniently. It is a testimony of how intrusive our Federal and State governments have become that we are appealing to our congressmen and senators to allow us to do this. It is obvious in the article that any further tightening of regulations regarding this would only be for the profit of the insurance companies and the government health inspectors.
      I do not know why people cannot see that natural laws will take their course in most situations. Consider the man in Worthington, if he is guilty of producing all of this contaminated product he not stay in business. Only if the consumers become robots, who always wait for the government to tell them what they can and cannot do, would they not have the common sense to steer clear of this mans goods.

      1. Jennifer Murphy says:

        I am a women who can only drink raw milk. Processed milk makes me sick to my stomach and gives me cramps and eventually diarrhea. I am lactose intolerant. I have been drinking raw milk for the past 7 years and can now have cereal and drink milk with out getting sick. No one is making anyone buy it. If you don’t like raw milk then don’t buy it but let us who want to drink be able to have access to it. I have every right to go to a farmer to buy raw milk.

  2. Bob says:

    Stupid idea. Raw milk is NOT healthy, don’t believe what you hear.

    1. sandra says:

      And what are your credentials? My children were raised on certified raw milk in AZ. They never had flu, colds or any illness.
      They had no tooth decay until 8 & 10 years old. I grew up in the 50’s drinking raw milk at my grandparents and uncles farms. They all lived past 85 yrs of age in their own homes.

  3. MadasHe!!inMN says:

    The GOP loves de-regulation of anything provided it’s not a GOP pork project . lol
    I saw on CNN business site that “Hedge fund honcho John Paulson profited more than $5 billion in 2010″ after he grabbed more than 3B off the shoting of mortagage based assets during the housing/banking/mortagage crash. Nothing like using a fund and leverage to further force an asset down. He’s a real fav of the GOP – ” look what no regulations or interference can do for you”
    What I cannot fathom is why so many of us like me see them as “good” – I’m not a lib but I will say they at least attempt to retain a middle class and not this total have vs not.
    I don’t see myself as voting GOP party line ever again. Mighta been dumb all along in hindsight. It’s done

    1. Chuck says:

      Where does it refer to GOP folks pushing this?!
      Also, what a stretch to link this story to hedge fund guys… wow.

      1. Fred says:

        Third paragraph it refers to gop legislators
        At best it points out why people demand regulation because of whata happens when things are deregulated.

  4. Howard D says:

    Stupid beyond belief. When I was a kid growing up in the 50’s we had dairy operation. I spent more time in the biffy because of milk related illness than I did anything. Moved to town when I was older and had store bought milk. Never had that problem again.
    My near 50 year experience says don’t do this. Plainly put it is a very dumb idea

    1. C. says:

      Yes, you are on the money 100%!!!
      Let’s try to get some of these people to understand the dangers…
      As these issues can be fatal!

      1. Sandra says:

        100.000 people die yrly from prescription drugs taken as directed. These drugs are left on the market. You want to take away my right to God given untarnished with all nutrients in tact. You don’t have to be healthy. Health is a choice. Stop taking away our right to choose.

      2. Better bet I'm against says:

        Raise your own cows Sandra if the risk is one you want. Way to many uniformed or vaive people granted easy access to this is dynamite so I say NO too. Live on dairy farm today btw – small herd.
        The 100,000 people a year die from Rx – way out there – Rx’s probably save 10,000,000 too. Most have no choice – it’s called the lesser of the evils. A small chance of bad effect vs death. You make no pint other than want seems to be desperate push to maybe get many sick.
        Buy a cow and milk her. Simple enough

  5. Mark from Minnesota Tax Waste says:

    Great idea, the benefits from eating raw go beyond even organic. Well done GOP, thanks for fighting the fight

    1. Slim says:

      What kind of benefits for raw milk that processed doesn’t?
      Will you be sueing the dairies when you get deathly sick?

  6. JohnF says:

    How clueless are these guys? Do they not read the news at all? They must have missed the several investigations that the Dept of Health pursued last year after a number of people got sick drinking raw milk from a farm or farms in SW Mn. Another example of idealogues pursuing their personal beliefs in the face of facts. What a great group of idiots voters put in office last year.

  7. kim says:

    According to CDC data, from 1993 to 2006 there were only about 116 illnesses a year linked to raw milk — that amounts to less than .000002 percent of the 76 million people who contract a food-borne illness in the United States each year! California, specifically, (where raw milk is legal) has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption, in which farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing. (www.mercola.com)

    I am very capable of making my own decision whether to drink or not drink raw milk, I don’t need government doing it for me!

    1. Chris says:

      Well then you can drink it yourself…
      Not man ypeople are getting sick from it because there is so little of it available!
      Also, where in this story do they mention GOP folks pushing this?
      This is a step backward into something that we solved years ago!

      1. Fred says:

        FYI Third paragraph Chris.

      2. kim says:

        Chris, I would love to drink it myself, and do when I can, but cannot afford to drive 50 + miles to get it. and to have to buy in huge quantities. I am not asking you to drink it nor would anyone be forcing you to drink it, but you on the other hand would have the choice to NOT purchase it if it is in your local store. Should I not have the same opportunity?

    2. Happy it's not on shelves says:

      The percent of this raw milk drank is also miniscule as miniscule can be. So your percentage is meaningless as iother that it’s an assigned number it is also nearly random as its unknown.
      You don’t need the government making YOUR decision then, okay. Buy your own friggen moo-moo with mark below and have at it.

  8. Joe says:

    For those that want less government. I have an idea. Let’s close down all those agencies that regulate businesses etc. Let’s deregulate planes and cars. Just make them and let what ever happens to them happen. Same with food. Let’s make sure that there are no regulationis as to how things are produced. Who cars if it causes death or illness. Just reduces the surplus population doesn’t it?

    1. Holstien T says:

      more cow bell, please.

    2. Sandra says:

      Raw milk has a lower bcteria count than pasterized milk.If all milk was made available as God planned (without pasterization) our dairy farmers would have to run much cleaner dairies. I’m not going to force anyone to drink raw milk. I’m only asking to have the right to excellent health.
      The drug companies need to be regulated . What they sell can and will kill you.

      In a June 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, study authors said that in looking over records that spanned from 1976 to 2006 (the most recent year available) they found that, of 62 million death certificates, almost a quarter-million deaths were coded as having occurred in a hospital setting due to medication errors.

  9. Andrea says:

    We drink raw milk and have for years. No sickness here. The cows are clean and healthy, so is the milk. And it is inspected many times per year – not sure where the info in this paragraph comes from:

    “Bob Lefebvre, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, which represents dairy farmers who pasteurize their milk, told MPR any easing of restrictions on raw milk sales would be dangerous. If anything, he said, the state should tighten regulation of raw milk even more. He said any farms selling it should be regularly inspected and tested by the state. They aren’t now.”

    Also, more information should be represented on illness from pasteurized milk. It’s not 100% clean either.

  10. JZ says:

    A lot of you are leaving comments out of emotion, not fact. The fact is that anyone can get sick from almost anything at any time. I have gotten seriously ill from various meats from restaurants and stores. Am I against eating meat or against other people buying it? No. I know that not all meat is bad and that some people cook it more thoroughly than others. The point is, more people get sick from meat every year than from raw milk.
    This proposal HAS to be bi-partisan to pass. It is not the GOP or the dems trying to push anything. Also, this does not cost ANYTHING to pass. The current bill states that the sale of raw milk IS legal, but farmers are not allowed to deliver it.
    Some of you need to get your facts straight before you react out of put ignorance.

    1. Mark in Redwood says:

      Buy a cow – form a coop. If you desire to get potentailly all this nasty chit in your system and become ill have at it. Just don’t toss it up on a shelf where I may buy it by accident. lol
      So it can’t be delivered – get in you car and drive to Shakopee, Lakeville, etc and buy it from one of the small farms.
      There was a reason pasteurized milk is what it is – believe me, a farmer would love to not have to deal with all this regulation if they didn’t need to. They know and understand the cause and effect. Notice how that besides this tiny group involved here the vast vast majority of milkers are not involved. Use you brain here – they are not dumb

  11. Jeff Pasolt says:

    I have to poop

  12. KP says:

    I’m interested to hear what those of you against the right to buy raw milk think of smoking. It is clinically proven to cause cancer – it’s not that some cigarettes “might” make you sick, each one of them will have a negative impact on your health. Yet, in America, the right to choose to smoke is respected. No one tells someone who smokes to go buy a farm and grow their own tobacco. They might disagree with it, but they treat people who chose to smoke with respect.
    So why do some choose to be so disrespecful and insulting to someone wanting that same choice with milk? To me the discussion isn’t about if raw milk is safe/unsafe, stupid/intelligent. It is about people’s right to make their own decisions, just as someone who chooses to smoke or drink alcohol does. Different opinions make different choices, and respecting differences is what makes America different from many other countries.

  13. ruth says:

    Go to http://www.westonaprice.org and get the real scoop on raw milk. If you think this issue is only about protecting the public, you are very wrong. The large milk producers and processors are very much against this happening, because they will lose out on all the money they’ve been making off farmers for so many years. The great fears placed in our heads about raw milk are greatly exagerated by government agencies because they are supporting big businesses control over farmers receiving fair pricing for their milk.

  14. AJS says:

    I think the purpose of this bill is to provide consumers a choice in the matter. As with many matters of food politics, consumers have not had a real choice when it comes to access. Propagated by delusions of consumer protection and a more efficient business model for Americas staple foods, The USDA and FDA have set a poor precedent for establishing societal health through food. With the case of Milk, what is not talked about is how homogenization denatures the fat in milk to make it solvent in the aqueous portions. The health implications of this are still being studied, but have doctors explained why gastrointestinal disorders are one of the most prominent and growing problem in the healthcare system. IBS, Chron’s Disease, Leaky Gut Syndrome Asberger’s, and Autism all have a relationship to how our bodies react to indigestible fats and protiens. Is anyone talking about how these fats are entering our bloodstreams and the potential implications regarding atherosclerosis and cholesterol levels in the populations. Blood clot development and strokes could be just two of the implications.
    Instead we are wrapped up in one farmer’s practices surrounding their supposed sub-par upkeep and sanitation practices. What about all the farmers who are doing things right? There are many organic dairies who have impeccable health and safety under the current laws, and who’s to say there won’t be the same amount of compliance when good people are making great product? There are bad eggs in every industry, and they will be weeded out if raw milk access is expanded. If the FDA and/or USDA doesn’t want to contribute taxpayer money towards the production and sale of raw milk, consumers who want raw milk would probably welcome covering the difference in cost with what the Farm bill would have contributed. The Organic industry has an extremely high level of compliance with the rules surrounding that. Let’s give Raw Milk Access a shot.

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