May 24, 2016 - Raw Milk's 'Explosive Growth' Comes With a Cost



Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - Citing the “explosive growth” in the raw-milk industry during the past 10 years, Washington state’s Agriculture Department reports there were only six raw-milk dairies in the state in 2006. There are now 39 — more than double the number in 2013 when there were 18. State officials say the number of raw-milk dairies will likely continue to climb.

All are Grade A licensed dairies, subject to the same food-safety standards as milk from conventional dairies. State law in Washington requires that all retail raw milk products carry a warning label that states:   
“WARNING:  This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria.  Pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product.”

Despite numerous outbreaks and recalls of raw milk across the country and warnings from federal and state agencies about the potential dangers associated with drinking raw milk, demand is strong. And continues to grow.

A passionate lot, raw-milk advocates have a range of reasons for avoiding pasteurized milk. Many say they can drink raw milk without experiencing allergic reactions such as bloating and other digestive discomforts.  Others like that it often comes from family farms, in contrast to what they refer to as “factory farms.” Still others laud it for its alleged power to cure some common ailments.  And, most raw-milk consumers say that it just plain tastes better.

Officials claim the state made the right move by opening the door to raw-milk dairies if they are Grade A certified.  It’s a practical way of dealing with reality. If raw-milk sales are illegal, consumers will seek it out anyway, putting themselves and their families at risk.

Here’s the rub — raw milk requires more tests than conventional milk as it must also be tested for foodborne pathogens, in addition to the same quality-control tests performed on pasteurized milk.  These extra tests and the technicians required increase the need for funding in an already tight budget.

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