Farmers, consumers, store owners fight raw milk ban
(Waterbury Republican-American, CT)
By BRIGITTE RUTHMAN
food store owners and consumers have banded together to try and stop the
state from removing raw milk from retail store shelves.
The new Connecticut Farmstead Dairy Alliance was formed in the aftermath of
discussions in February when legislators considered a bill, endorsed by the
state Department of Agriculture, that would have tightened restrictions on
raw milk sales and banned retail sales to assure a safe supply.
The bill did not gain enough support to be put to a vote. With the support of
Agriculture Commissioner and Winsted native F. Philip Prelli, it is expected
to resurface someday.
Farmers say it could limit raw milk sales to those within traveling distance
of farms that sell it, and make it harder for the dairy industry to survive
against rising costs and shrinking profits. The popularity of raw milk offers
dairy farmers another option, one that can be more profitable.
Just as Prohibition pushed alcohol sales into illegal and unregulated territory,
a raw milk ban would create a black market, they say.
Prelli told legislators in February the new rules were prompted, in part, by
a July outbreak of E. coli that sickened seven people in the Granby area. Raw
milk is inherently risky, he said, no matter how carefully it is collected.
"There is a reason why we have been pasteurizing milk for more than 50
years," he said. "Before that, 25 percent of food illnesses came
from milk products, and that number is now down to one percent. It's one
thing to go to the farm and make a decision and effort to buy raw milk and
another to buy it in the store where it is presumed safe."
More attention is currently given to monitor health and safety standards at
the state's 14 farms that produce raw milk than the 150 others that send
their milk to be heated and churned to kill bacteria and increase shelf live,
processes known as homogenization and pasteurization.
The Alliance, which has a steering committee of seven, is working to develop
a manual of management practices for farmers and to educate consumers. A Web
site is planned. The group will also serve as a voice in Hartford for the
state's 14 licensed raw milk producers, a number that is expected to grow as
interest in community supported agriculture and locally grown produce