Government bans on the sale and distribution of raw milk and raw milk products are enforced in the name of public safety. But many people enjoy the health benefits of milk that has not been pasteurized, and some farms want sell it. Are the health threats from raw milk significant enough to warrant a ban on its sale? Government data and the lack of regulation of other raw foods suggest that they are not.
The Food and Drug Agency currently prohibits the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk and raw milk products, such as yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and sour cream, and requires anyone selling raw milk to be licensed. The FDA delegates all further regulation to the states by advising them to likewise regulate the sale and distribution of raw milk. Based on this advice, 40 states prohibit the retail sale of raw milk and raw milk products and 13 states make unpasteurized dairy products completely illegal for human consumption.
Though they have the potential to make people sick if they are not prepared carefully, unpasteurized dairy products carry health benefits—especially for those people who are sensitive to lactose or have allergies. Kristin Canty, director of the documentary Farmageddon, told us, “My son was completely ridden with allergies and asthma until we started drinking raw milk as a family. We have been drinking it now for 15 years. I find it ridiculous that the government thinks that they have the right to tell us that we can’t consume a substance that has been used for sustenance for thousands of years.”
Dan Allgyer, an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania who violated the FDA’s ban on interstate raw milk sales, was subjected to an early morning armed raid to his farm which put him out of business. Milk from Allgyer’s now-closed farm was never alleged to have made any of his customers in the Washington, D.C. area sick. Rather, his customers sought out his dairy products, fully aware that they were unpasteurized.
The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are determined to educate the public on the perceived dangers of raw milk, but their data suggest that raw milk is not as dangerous as their slanted language implies.
In its video explanation of the dangers of raw milk, the FDA claims that, “healthy people of any age can get very sick or even die if they drink contaminated raw milk.” This is not news—healthy people of any age can get very sick or even die if they drink or eat any contaminated food. All products carry risks, but their sale is not prohibited. Consumer freedom would be substantially limited if only fully-cooked chicken breasts or well-done steaks were available for sale.