April 5, 2006
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill that would have allowed raw, unpasteurized milk sales in Tennessee was bottled up in a House committee on Tuesday.
Opponents were concerned that without pasteurization, raw milk has a potential to be laced with listeria, E. coli or salmonella, but bill sponsor Rep. Glen Casada said consumers run the risk of contracting illnesses from any food.
“That’s just the nature of food,” the College Grove Republican said. “I contend it’s a consumers right to buy food they think is healthy for them and their family.”
Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella can result in gastrointestinal illness and, in the worst cases, kidney failure or death.
The House Agriculture Committee defeated the bill 7-5 after hearing objections from Department of Agriculture general counsel Patricia Clark and state epidemiologist Dr. Allen Craig.
“Other states that allow raw milk sales have had problems,” Clark said following the committee meeting. “An unknowing population could make very bad choices.”
The measure would require warning labels that the raw milk can contain disease-causing microorganisms. The warning label would have also prevented raw milk producers from being liable for any disease outbreaks, Clark said.
Another provision of the bill would have forbade state officials from alerting the public to any farm suspected of causing a regional outbreak without proof from multiple laboratory tests and other procedures. Clark called the provision an “unusual procedure.”
Interest in raw milk has been on the rise nationwide, part of a growing natural foods movement. Supporters of raw milk sales say pasteurization’s scalding heat destroys the taste and nutrients, but opponents say there’s no scientific proof of benefits from drinking raw milk.
“It’s just interesting that we allow unhealthy habits like smoking, but we don’t allow for the sales of raw milk, which is healthy,” Casada said.