Health officials warn of raw milk risk after bill passes House

JONESBORO/LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) –Farmers could soon be ableto sell milk straight from the source.

The state House approved a bill this weekend to allow thesale of unpasteurized milk.

House Bill 1536 would let farmers sell "raw" milk from cowsand goats at the farms where it is produced.

The proposal has drawn opposition from doctors, like CraigheadCounty Health Officer Dr. Joe Stallings.

Dr. Stallings says "raw" or unpasteurized milk presents ahealth risk because of all the bacteria and germs. He has even asked lawmakersto vote down the proposal, but not everyone agrees.

"To advocate drinking unpasteurized milk is moving the clockback," Dr. Stallings said.

He says science has greatly reduced the risk of peoplegetting sick or even dying from drinking milk because of a 120-year-old processcalled pasteurization.

"Through pasteurization, 99.9 percent of all bacteria [are]eliminated," he explained.

The milk stocked on grocery store shelves is allpasteurized, but some people prefer getting it straight from the source – much toDr. Stallings' dismay.

"If you have access to a farm, if you have access to a cowor goat, you can drink unpasteurized milk," he said. "My point is that it putsyou in harm's way. The diseases that can be transmitted can be fatal."

Dr. Stallings hopes lawmakers keep that in mind, as HB1536progresses in the state legislature.

The bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. RandyAlexander of Springdale, would allow Arkansas farmers to sell up to 500 gallonsof unpasteurized milk per month on average. The legislation would also requirefarmers to post a sign letting consumers that neither the milk has beenpasteurized nor has it been inspected by the state.

Supporters, like Christopher Dyson of Jonesboro, said thebill would give consumers more freedom to buy whatever they'd like.

"I was raised drinking unpasteurized milk," Dyson said. "I'm30 years old and I'm still alive today, so it didn't kill me yet."

Many Region 8 News viewers seem to side with Dyson basedsolely on the large amount of feedback from social media.

Elizabeth Tarver wrote on the KAIT Facebook page, "We havenever gotten sick from [raw milk], and I believe it has a lot of healing andimmunity properties."

Kim McKay commented too, writing: "We have had raw milkbefore and it is healing, tastes good, makes amazing butter and cheese and isjust great."

While consuming unpasteurized milk does carry some benefits,Dr. Stallings says they fail to outweigh the potentially negative consequences.

"I hope that [the lawmakers] will have the wisdom not topass this, and I hope if they do pass it that the governor will veto it," hesaid.

The bill cleared the state House by a vote of 60 to 19, soit's now pending in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and EconomicDevelopment ahead of a possible full floor vote.

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