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Food Safety and Raw Milk
By Doug McKalip
Thank you for signing a petition about legalizing raw milk and for participating in the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov. We appreciate consumer concerns on food issues and understand the importance of letting consumers make their own food choices.
This Administration believes that food safety policy should be based on science. In this case, we support pasteurization to protect the safety of the milk supply because the health risks associated with raw milk are well documented.
Pasteurization of milk was adopted decades ago as a basic public health measure to kill dangerous bacteria and largely eliminate the risk of getting sick from one of the most important staples of the American diet. In 1987, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation prohibiting the interstate sale of raw milk to reduce the number of illnesses and outbreaks associated with its consumption.
In recent years, some Americans have rejected pasteurization in favor of raw (or unpasteurized) milk, citing a range of taste, nutritional, and health benefits they believe are associated with raw milk consumption, as well as a general preference for unprocessed food.
As a science-based regulatory agency, the FDA looks to the scientific literature for information on benefits and risks associated with raw milk. While the nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear. Since 1987, there have been 143 reported outbreaks of illness – some involving miscarriages, still births, kidney failure and deaths – associated with consumption of raw milk and raw milk products that were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli. The FDA's position on raw milk is in concert with the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatricians.
The FDA does not regulate intrastate raw milk sales, or selling raw milk within a state, which is left up to the individual states. Today, 20 states explicitly prohibit the intrastate sale of raw milk in some form and 30 allow it. FDA bans interstate raw milk sales, or selling raw milk across state lines. The FDA has never taken, nor does it intend to take, enforcement action against an individual who purchases and transports raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.
Thank you for participating in this important process. We appreciate your opinions and look forward to hearing from you again soon.
Doug McKalip is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council