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Blaze News investigates: Is raw milk illegal? The fight to liberate raw milk from government intolerance: 'Food is medicine'
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Blaze News investigates: Is raw milk illegal? The fight to liberate raw milk from government intolerance: 'Food is medicine'

The fight to legalize raw milk and end government control of the food supply is heating up.

As more Americans learn about the benefits of raw milk and why the government doesn’t advertise them, a growing number of legislators are working to legalize raw dairy.

"Food is medicine and if that choice is denied, we become nothing more than pin cushions for pharma drugs."

As Blaze News previously reported, raw milk is almost a “perfect food.” But most Americans aren’t aware of the benefits of raw dairy because the government warns it will sicken you if consumed — and potentially even kill you. The problem, however, is that government regulators don’t tell you the other side of the story.

Blaze News told that story here.

Last year, five states — Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wyoming — passed or enacted new laws and regulations broadening access to raw milk for consumers. But because of the government's warnings, the media are increasingly framing these developments as political phenomena. Politico, for example, described the fight to legalize raw milk as a signal of the "conservative culture war" because raw milk fits a narrative that is "skeptical of credentialed expertise."

But is this actually a political issue? And, more importantly, why should you care about it?

What is the law?

Officially, raw milk cannot be sold across state lines.

In 1987, the Food and Drug Administration issued a regulation prohibiting the interstate commerce of raw milk and raw dairy products made specifically for human consumption. The regulation requires that “milk and milk products in final package form for human consumption in interstate commerce be pasteurized.”

Individual states, however, regulate raw milk differently: In some states, you can purchase raw milk at your local grocery store; other states completely outlaw sales of raw dairy.

Generally, states fall into five regulatory categories:

  1. Retail sales legal: Consumers can buy raw milk directly from retail stores.
  2. Farm-to-consumer sales legal: Consumers can buy raw milk and other raw dairy products directly from their local farmer.
  3. Herdshares/cowshares legal: Consumers can enter into an agreement with a farmer to share the milk a cow produces.
  4. "Pet food" sales legal: Farmers can sell raw milk as "pet food" with a warning label that says, "not for human consumption."
  5. Totally illegal: Absent of retail sales, farm-to-consumer sales, herdshare laws, and "pet food" exceptions, all sales of raw milk are illegal.

These regulations are not uniform, and they are full of idiosyncrasies.

For example, Kentucky allows farm-to-consumer sales — but only of raw goat's milk. And you better bring a doctor's prescription with you if you want it.

In Wisconsin, raw milk can be sold to consumers but only in "incidental" cases, meaning not during the course of regular farm business. In such "incidental" cases, consumers are required to transport the milk in their own containers.

What is clear, though, is that as Americans become increasingly aware of raw milk's benefits, state lawmakers are responding in kind.

Today, raw milk is more accessible than any other time in the last half-century, and the campaign to broaden access is only gaining momentum.

Why you should care about raw milk legalization

The issue of raw milk legalization, then, is not only about being able to enjoy its health benefits, but it's an issue of freedom.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has been fighting to legalize the interstate commerce of raw milk and end government control of the food supply for more than a decade, repeatedly introducing the Interstate Milk Freedom Act. The bill would "prohibit federal interference with the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption." Despite enjoying bipartisan support, the bill has never made it out of the House.

For Massie, the fight is personal.

Not only is Massie a freedom-loving American, but he is a cow farmer and faithful consumer of raw dairy.

In Massie's view, the federal government shouldn't step in between farmers and willing consumers.

"Federal agencies, such as the FDA, that are part of the executive branch do not and should not have the power to shut down trade between peaceful farmers and willing consumers," Massie said. "It is Congress's job to legislate."

Mark McAfee, owner of the largest raw dairy farm in the world, agrees the issue is about freedom, specifically to make choices about your personal health.

"Americans should always protect their freedoms to make choices in food," McAfee told Blaze News.

"Food is medicine and if that choice is denied, we become nothing more than pin cushions for pharma drugs," he explained. "Drugs don’t build immune systems. Drugs destroy immune systems. The immune system is 80% made up of the biodiversity of bacteria in the gut microbiome."

This isn't just McAfee's perspective. In fact, he pointed to timeless quotes from Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, to prove his point:

  • "All disease begins in the gut";
  • "Do no harm"; and
  • "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."

That's also why McAfee doesn't believe that raw milk is a political issue per se.

"When we fill a room with raw milk consumers," he told Blaze News, "it is bipartisan."

"It is a diverse group that has every possible religious, political and ethic background and belief. Everyone wants healthy children and families," he explained. "I do know that some Republicans tend to be a bit anti-establishment and anti-FDA — that's true. However, Democrats, Independents, Green Party members, and everyone else love raw milk also."

"We see this in California: Raw milk is a top seller, and everyone is drinking it," McAfee said.

Should government play a role?

Advocates for legal raw milk do not want to eschew the government completely, nor do they think doing so would be wise.

This fact is self-evident in Massie's proposals: He doesn't believe the federal government should issue blanket regulations against raw milk, but he does believe Congress should legislate the issue because lawmakers (in theory) represent the interests of the people.

McAfee agrees with the campaign to legalize raw milk, but he emphasizes the responsibility that comes with freedom.

According to McAfee, there needs to be smart "standards and practices" regarding the production and sale of raw milk — or "it's gonna get punched in the face."

McAfee speaks from experience. His farm uses strict sanitary measures to ensure the health of his dairy cows and the cleanliness of the milk and dairy products produced at his farm. The standards at his farm, and other raw dairy farms like his, far exceed those used at standard dairy farms, which don't have to produce a clean product because it's going to be pasteurized.

"Freedom has to come with responsibility or else raw milk is gonna get a big, bloody nose," he said.

If raw milk is legalized, McAfee recommends three regulations:

  1. Implement high standards for the cleanliness of raw milk but "not the same ones for pasteurization. Different standards, high standards."
  2. Train farmers fully in those standards.
  3. Develop testing protocols to make sure farmers are meeting those high standards.

"Freedom," McAfee said, "but you're not going to have a lot of freedom if you get somebody sick. So you better have freedom coupled with high standards, farmer training, and testing."

What is the government's response?

Blaze News sent the FDA a list of specific questions about raw milk, including:

  • Why does the FDA only list outbreaks of foodborne illness from raw milk but never include outbreaks that originate from pasteurized dairy products, thus creating the illusion that only raw milk can cause foodborne illness?
  • Why does the FDA recommend breastfeeding infants — which means saying infants should drink raw (human) milk, full of pathogens, in a non-sterile environment — but demonize raw milk under all circumstances?
  • What is the FDA's response to the fact that humans have consumed raw milk from mammals for thousands of years without problem?
  • Is pasteurization a solution to a unique problem in a unique point in history, one that is no longer needed because societal sanitation is much better than it was 100–150 years ago?
  • Is it true that dairy farmers that produce milk for pasteurization have no incentive to produce a "clean" product because it will be nuked (pasteurized) anyway?
  • Could the FDA rescind its prohibition on the interstate commerce of raw milk while implementing strict production regulations per the suggestion of McAfee?

Unfortunately, the FDA did not directly answer any of these questions. Instead, an FDA official took three days to regurgitate what the agency already says publicly.

Refusing to interact with any of the scientific literature concluding that raw milk is not dangerous, the FDA claimed "the perceived nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated."

The agency said "pasteurization has a long history of protecting public health," but it neglected to mention that pasteurization was only invented in the 19th century, the first application was for wine, and that dairy products were not mass-pasteurized until the 20th century. It's not exactly a "long history." Humans, after all, have been flying longer than dairy products have been pasteurized on a mass, societal scale.

The FDA added that "raw milk can contain a variety of disease-causing pathogens," a simplistic maxim that ignores how any food or drink product, unsafely handled, can contain disease-causing pathogens. Every year, there are outbreaks of foodborne illness connected to fruits, vegetables, meats, and other products like peanut butter.

Regarding outbreaks, the FDA official said that between 1993–2018, there were approximately 250 hospitalizations related to the consumption of raw milk.

This statistic ignores the fact that pasteurized dairy products are also responsible for outbreaks of foodborne illness. In fact, a recently published systematic review that analyzed dairy outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada between 2007 and 2020 found that more people died from consuming bad pasteurized dairy than bad unpasteurized dairy.

And yet, the FDA official told Blaze News, "Pasteurization of milk was adopted as a basic public health measure to kill dangerous bacteria. This measure largely eliminated the risk of getting sick from one of the most important staples of our diet."

It's true that most Americans do not consume raw dairy, so it's not statistically honest to directly compare deaths from pasteurized dairy to deaths from raw dairy.

But the data speaks for itself, and it makes you wonder why the FDA and CDC emphasize the alleged dangers of raw milk while not emphasizing in the same manner the potential dangers of other commercial food products.

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Chris Enloe

Chris Enloe

Staff Writer

Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News
@chrisenloe →