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NMPF, IDFA Criticize Wisconsin's Raw Milk Bill
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 05/12/2010

Two large groups that represent the interest of the American dairy industry are taking aim at Wisconsin's pending raw milk law. The National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association are criticizing members of the state legislature for 'downplaying the food safety risks' inherent in raw dairy products, and urged federal lawmakers to take measures restricting such sales.

As part of the bill, which Governor Jim Doyle says he will likely sign into law, dairy farms will be able to sell milk directly to consumers through December 2011 under certain restrictions. But Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF, says the policy is irresponsible.

"It is terribly ironic that, at a time when lawmakers in Washington are trying to pass a major food safety bill to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses, states like Wisconsin are going the opposite direction," Kozak said. "Raw milk is a known source of life-threatening pathogens such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. It's an abdication of a public servant's role to take actions that will result in more people, including children, becoming sickened by these bacteria."

Currently, federal law prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk, but allows states individual discretion to regulate raw milk sales within their borders. Several states in recent years have joined Wisconsin in allowing the sale of raw milk.

Meanwhile, NMPF and IDFA have been urging lawmakers in Washington to add provisions to a major, pending food safety bill that would require sales of raw milk to come under the restrictions in the new law or, at a minimum, not exempt any farms from requirements that their products be regulated and tested for harmful bacteria.

"America's dairy farmers and processors have worked hard to ensure that they produce a safe, wholesome product, and a key pillar in the steps the industry takes is pasteurization," Connie Tipton, president and CEO of IDFA , referring to the heat treatment that milk receives to eliminate pathogens from the dairy supply. "There is absolutely no science behind the claims of raw milk supporters that pasteurization does anything other than make safer a potentially hazardous product."

Kozak says children are frequently the ones who will be served these products in Wisconsin, and calls it 'a shame' that policymakers haven't expressed greater concern about the health issues that will result from this legislation.

Backers of the new bill say raw milk has nutritional benefits over pasteurized milk. They also claim they should have the same rights as other commodity producers to sell their product in its natural form without the government regulating their business practices.

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