When the Missouri General Assembly is gaveled into session on Jan 4, 2023, one thing is certain. “Show Me” state lawmakers will be deciding whether to take the brakes off the sale of raw milk.
That fact became a certainty this month when bills were pre-filed in both the House and the Senate to legalize the sale of raw milk in Missouri while limiting federal restrictions on such sales.
The legislation would legalize the sale of “Grade A retail raw milk or cream” produced in Missouri making it legal at grocery stores, restaurants, soda fountains, or similar establishments, as long as the milk is clearly marked with a specified warning label.
“Grade A retail raw milk or cream” is defined in the bills as “raw milk or cream produced upon dairy farms conforming to sanitation and bacteriological standards that meet or exceed those of Grade A pasteurized milk.”
Inspection for raw milk bottlers and distributors is required by the pre-filed bills.
Raw milk sales in Missouri are currently limited to direct sales to the consumer on the farm, but retail sales are banned.
The two bills have multiple goals, opening up retail sales for raw milk, but also to stem federal prohibititons by opening in-state transporation of raw milk.
Federal policy as set by FDA guidance finds raw milk is a health risk and one that increases with time and transporation of the product. FDA enacted 21 CFR 1240.61(a), in 1987 stating that, “no person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized.”
FDA’s ban on the interstate transporation of raw milk (across state lines) likely includes the authority to ban unpasteurized milk within the borders of a state. The agency has asserted that atuthority in response to legal actions involving the intersate ban.
When a state specifically allows the transporation of raw milk within its borders it sets up a potenial conflict, and that’s what the newly introduced raw milk bills do for Missouri.
They could ultimately nullify the interstate ban if all 50 states were to allow raw milk, markets within the states might grow to the point where local sales would render the federal ban on interstate commerce meaningless, especially without federal enforcement.
The pre-filed bills will need to be assigned to committees, receive hearings, and pass the committees by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
The FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments all warn against consuming unpasteurized, raw milk because it can contain pathogens that cause serious illnesses in humans.
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