Alaska legislature considers bill to legalize some raw milk sales

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The Alaska Legislature was called into session Tuesday in the capital city of Juneau. Its location in the temperature-transition zone usually makes Juneau a warmer place to hang out than the rest of the 49th State during winter. Opening signs are the Alaska Legislature is also going to be a warm place for raw milk legislation.

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, filed House Bill 46 before the session got underway. As drafted, her bill would grant “a person” the right to sell raw milk to “a final consumer” so long as “the principal display panel on the raw milk product prominently states that the raw milk product is not pasteurized and may cause health concerns…”

Unusual in a raw milk bill, Tarr’s legislation also says the state’s cities and towns may purchase raw milk if the price being paid is no mor ethan 7 percent higher than for milk products produced outside the state. The same language would govern the sale of raw milk to school districts using state money.

In introducing the bill, Tarr says her motivation is to save the state’s diary industry and grow small businesses. The lawmaker says she is looking forward to the discussion that will be generated by the bill.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says raw milk can contain harmful bacteria including E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella. That is the same view of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which both warn consumers to avoid unpasteurized raw milk.

Suzy Crosby with Cottonwood Creek Farm told local media that raw milk poses no more danger than some other raw foods.

With the exception of cow share programs, sales of raw milk are currently prohibited in Alaska. Tarr says her bill would allow “small scale direct purchases.”

Federal law prevents the transportation across state lines of raw milk and most raw milk products.

The Alaska House has not yet assigned HB46 to a committee. The Alaska Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 15.  Republicans control both the House and Senate in Juneau. Gov. Bill Walker is an Independent.

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