FDA asked to allow interstate sales of raw milk with warnings

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This spring’s state legislative season left raw milk advocates largely disappointed, but they’ve gotten up off the mat with a new federal strategy being advanced by a new group with new lawyers.

The new strategy comes in the form of a citizen petition filed last month with the Food and Drug Administration’s docket management unit by the newbie Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) and Clifton, VA, attorneys Jonathan W. Emord and Bethany R. Kennedy.

They’ve asked FDA to allow raw milk to cross state boundaries so long as it is labeled with a warning about its health risks; and with instructions for safe handling, including instructions for self or home pasteurization.

That would be a dramatic reversal. While state policies vary from outright bans to permitting retail sales, FDA has banned the transport of unpasteurized milk across state lines for the past 30 years.

The Real Food Consumer Coalition’s petition forces FDA to review that policy. The agency can take a year or longer to respond, depending on “the issue’s complexity.” If it denies the petition, the coalition has the option of challenging the decision in federal court.

Attorneys Emord and Kennedy say the petition is consistent with President Trump’s call to reduce or eliminate regulations that are holding back economic growth.

They also argue that the intrastate supply of unpasteurized milk and raw milk products is insufficient to meet demand. They blame this on FDA’s “blanket ban on distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products interstate.”

David Gumpert, author of “The Raw Milk Revolution,” says the petition “clearly aims to change the tenor and content of the debate over raw milk.” He says its been locked in the raw milk is safe versus risky “sniping.”

He says the debate has been locked between the raw milk is safe camp versus raw milk is risky “sniping” side.

Rather, the petition walks a narrow line. “There is no need, however, for milk to be pasteurized before it is sold to consumers,” it says. “Self-pasteurization is as effective as industrial pasteurization in reducing bacterial infection in milk and milk products.”

The petition proposes a warning and instructions on raw milk and cream from raw milk that is transported across state lines. Here’s the suggested language:

WARNING: This raw (unpasteurized) milk (cream) may contain disease-causing organisms. Persons at highest risk of these organisms including newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken immunity.

SAFE HANDING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent food borne illnesses, keep this product refrigerated at 45°F, or lower and, prior to consumption, follow the pasteurization process identified below.

Pasteurization Process: (1) Heat milk at 145 °F, [150 °F] for 30 minutes in a stainless steel pot. (2) Remove pot of milk from heat and place in a single or large bowl with ice water stirring constantly until milk temperature drops to 40 °F, and (3) Store pasteurized milk in a refrigerator at 45 °F, or lower. (The 150 °F heating temperature option is used for milk with fat content of more than 10 percent.)

A similar warning is suggested for raw milk products in interstate commerce.

But Mary McGonigle-Martin, who helped create Real Raw Milk Facts  website, wants to know why children are not listed on the warning as a high-risk group. She also suggests “a wink” be added after the pasteurization instructions.

“Call a spade a spade… one of the main target groups for consumption of raw milk is children and this group should be listed on the warning label especially considering they are the age group is most likely to become ill,” McGonigle-Martin said in an exchange with Gumpert and other raw milk advocates on his Complete Patient website.

“Sorry the details bother you, but that is the reality of consuming contaminated raw milk. Parents should know the choice they are making when giving their children raw milk.”

A decade ago when she thought raw milk was “a healthier alternative to pasteurized milk, her son was infected with E. coli O157:H7 from drinking it, developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and nearly died during a two month hospital stay.

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