More States Legalize Sales of Unpasteurized Milk, Despite Public Health Warnings

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Health

LORIMOR, Iowa — Babe the goat is trendier than she looks.

Babe lives a quiet life on a hillside farm in southern Iowa, where she grazes on grass with a small herd of fellow goats. Her owner, Stacy Wistock, milks her twice a day.

Wistock takes precautions to keep the milk clean, but she rarely pasteurizes it. Until recently, she gave it away to family and friends. Now, she’ll make a little money off it. Iowa legislators decided this spring to join dozens of other states in allowing small producers to sell unpasteurized milk from cows, goats, and sheep.

Public health authorities and major dairy industry groups oppose the practice, saying such milk can be tainted with dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. But in state after state, those warnings have been overwhelmed by testimonials from fans of “raw milk,” who contend pasteurized milk is more difficult to digest because the process alters enzymes and kills helpful bacteria.

Federal experts say there is no proof that pasteurization makes milk less healthful. People on all sides of the issue say the rising interest in raw milk is fueled partly by distrust of public health authorities, which grew during the covid-19 pandemic.

Wistock is unsure about some of the health claims made by ardent raw milk fans. But she sees the issue as a matter of freedom. “I don’t like restrictive laws about what foods you can and can’t sell to your neighbors,” she said.

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