California Threatens to Outlaw Sales of Raw Milk
California raw milk producers warn that a new law to impose strict requirements on raw milk, will outlaw and require the disposal of perfectly safe milk. AB 1735 requires that all raw milk sold in California be tested for 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter or less. But raw milk producers and activists say that most coliform bacteria is perfectly safe, and that tests are already carried out for a handful of such bacteria, including E. coli 0157:h7 and Listeria monocytogenes, that can cause disease in humans. The new law does not require testing for those bacteria.
"My customers' choices are now being limited by a law that makes no sense," said Mark McAfee, owner of the country's largest raw dairy, Organic Pastures. "Why test for coliform bacteria when you can test for pathogenic bacteria directly?"
"Officials cite health risks to raw milk, but once milk has been pasteurized, all the anti-microbial and immune-supporting components are reduced or destroyed," said Sally Fallon, founder of "A Campaign for Real Milk." All coliform bacteria are killed by the pasteurization process.
Fallon accuses California, which was formerly a leader in allowing consumers to purchase raw milk, of trying to "get rid of raw milk in California using standards that are unnecessary and impossible to meet."
McAfee agreed with Fallon's assessment of the law. "This new law limits the sale of perfectly healthy, pathogen-free milk," he said. "Most batches of our milk will not comply with the new legislation. Thousands of our customers who visit 300 stores in California each week will be without a source of raw milk."
Legislative records show that raw milk dairies were specifically discussed during the debate on AB 1735, but neither raw milk producers nor consumers were consulted on the legislation.
"Had they asked, I would have cited a 2004 study in the 'Journal of Dairy Science' that shows 80 percent of raw milk would not meet this new law," McAfee said.