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The Montana Department of Livestock’s Case Against Raw Milk

raw milk
Photo courtesy of elisharene/Flickr

Missoula representative Champ Edmunds has proposed a unique bill, H.B. 574, which would allow the purchase and sale of raw milk in Montana with some restrictions.

The Montana Department of Livestock has come out publicly against H.B. 574. Executive Officer for the department, Christian MacKay said that if people want to drink raw milk, they can do so now as long as they harvest the milk from their own animals, but that raw milk should not be sold.

H.B.574 would allow farms with fifteen cows or less to sell milk directly to consumers, but MacKay believes this would put Montanan’s at significant risk to pathogens. “Fifteen cows can produce roughly 80 gallons of milk a day and that could expose 80 to 100 families per day. That’s a much bigger exposure than someone simply consuming their own product.”

MacKay believes that, in the case of raw milk, public safety should outweigh personal liberties. “The legislature has found times when there is an overriding public interest in safety,” said MacKay pointing out restrictions such as seat-belt laws and even Missoula’s cell phone use while driving ban.

MacKay also points out that states that have looser laws on raw milk have higher instances of milk related outbreaks of dangerous diseases. “We’re not talking about small illnesses. E. coli, campylobactr, potentially tuberculosis and undulate fever, the human form of brucellosis.”

Christian MacKay:

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Raw milk was bought and sold in Montana up until 1998 and, since that time, according to Mackay, there have been two deaths nationwide linked with the drinking of raw milk. When asked if there could be another way to provide those in Montana with raw milk other than H.B. 574, Mackay simply said, “I do not advocate unpasteurized products of any kind. I don’t let my kids drink the fruit juice that’s unpasteurized . . . the health benefits are anecdotal and have not been peer reviewed or proven.”

If raw milk were allowed in Montana, MacKay feels that diseases spread through raw milk and the stories that would follow could have a negative effect on the entire milk market.

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