Hawaii lawmakers say locavores want unpasteurized, raw milk

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Citing increasing demand for local food, a group of state legislators in Hawaii is supporting a bill to allow the sale of raw milk in retail stores, but only if it has “a label that warns about the risks of consuming unpasteurized milk, especially to children and the elderly.”

“The legislature finds that consumers’ food preferences have shifted toward locally-produced food in recent years,” the bill states.

“Additionally, many small farms have the capability and desire to offer unpasteurized dairy products to consumers that seek locally-produced dairy products.”

The proposed legislation, House Bill 257, would allow dairies to sell shares of cows or herds to people who want raw milk. Producers could also sell raw milk for animal consumption if the bill earns approval.

Main sponsor Rep. Richard Creagan is joined by 10 fellow Democrats and two Republican co-sponsors. The bill made it through a first reading Jan. 20 and was assigned to two committees on Jan. 23 — the agriculture committee and the consumer protection and commerce committee.

Similar efforts to allow some form of raw milk sales failed to gain approval the past four years. This year’s bill includes a provision requiring producers to maintain records of everyone who buys unpasteurized raw milk.

The federal government and many state health departments warn against consuming raw milk because without the heat from pasteurization there is no kill step for bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

CDC-raw-milk-graphicNationwide, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show at least 148 foodborne illness outbreaks traced to unpasteurized raw milk from 1998-2011. The outbreaks caused 2,384 confirmed illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths, the CDC reports.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have raw milk fact sheets that debunk claims that unpasteurized raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized. Only a dozen states allow retail sales of raw milk.

Sponsors of Hawaii’s HB 257 to legalize retail and herd share sales of unpasteurized raw milk are: Richard Creagan, Cindy Evans, Kaniela Ing, Mathew Lopresti, Nicole Lowen, Lynn DeCoite, Cedric Gates, Mark Nakashima, Joy San Buenaventura, Gregg Takayama, Cynthia Thielen, Chris Todd and Andria Tupola.

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