Move over, pasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk could become a supermarket staple if raw milk enthusiasts have their way. But they'll have to fight the federal health agencies and the dairy lobby first.
An alliance of food activists and anti-regulation libertarians is battling to legalize raw, unpasteurized milk, despite warnings from health officials about the rising toll of illnesses affecting adults and children alike.
As the popularity of raw milk has grown, so too have associated outbreaks. They have nearly doubled over the past five years, with eight out of 10 cases occurring in states that have legalized sales of the unpasteurized product, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Public health officials have also documented how pathogens in raw milk have produced kidney failure in more than a dozen cases and paralysis in at least two.
But distrust of government and a thirst for the milk have helped fuel the movement to do away with federal and state restrictions despite the warnings. In states where raw milk remains banned, black and “gray” markets have emerged for enthusiasts seeking “moonshine milk” in the belief that bacteria-killing heat from pasteurization also kills powerful enzymes and eliminates other properties that can cure allergies, asthma and even autism.
During this legislative session, 40 bills have been introduced in 23 state capitals, all seeking to legalize unpasteurized milk within state borders.