Pouring milk in the glass on the background of nature.

Health Impact News Editor Comments

As we have frequently reported here at Health Impact News, the federal war against raw milk is NOT over food safety, but over the economic threat to Big Dairy and their subsidized milk pools that go into processed food. When farmers bypass the system and market a premium product directly to the consumer, such as farm-fresh milk directly from a healthy cow, they are threatening the system. The FDA should have no jurisdiction at all at the state level in trying to regulate raw milk, but as Pete Kennedy writes below, they are influencing the Illinois Department of Public Health to restrict consumer’s rights to purchase milk directly from the farm.

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Next month, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is scheduled to introduce in the Illinois Register proposed regulations on the production and sale of raw milk in the state–regulations that a number of Illinois raw milk producers believe could put them out of business.

The proposed regulations include the following provisions for raw milk producers:

    • A producer with even just one cow or goat would be required to have a permit and would be subject to regular inspections and testing.
    • Sanitary standards that can be arbitrarily applied against producers to shut them down even when there is no threat to the public health.
    • Prohibiting unlicensed producers from giving milk away to guests at their farms.
    • Prohibiting herdshares and the distribution of raw milk through community subscription agriculture (CSAs) unless the producer is in compliance with all requirements for Grade A dairies which produce raw milk for pasteurization—a financially impossible standard to meet for just about all shareholder and CSA dairies.
    • Requiring producers to provide “instructions for the consumer to notify the local health department for the area in which the consumer resides of a consumer complaint or suspected foodborne illness or to notify the department of a complaint of farm sanitary conditions.” Are producers of any other foods required to do this?
    • Requiring producers to “provide the consumer with Department approved consumer awareness information with each sale or transaction . . . .”Again, are producers of any other foods required to do this?

Currently, the unlicensed on-farm sale of raw milk is legal in the state by policy; it’s a policy that has worked well. There has not been a single foodborne illness outbreak attributed to an Illinois raw milk producer going back to at least 1998, if not much further. Raw milk supporters in the state are wondering, why IDPH is trying to “fix” something that isn’t broken? The answer is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 2012 and 2013 a dairy workgroup led by Molly Lamb, Division Chief of the IDPH Division of Food, Drugs and Dairy, met to draft regulations governing raw milk sales and production. The dairy workgroup eventually consisted of an even balance of raw milk supporters and opponents; but at the time the initial draft of the regulations were written—most of which is now part of the proposed regulations—the workgroup was almost entirely made up of those opposing raw milk.

The dairy workgroup is a subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Committee (FSAC) of which Lamb serves as chair. FSAC which–among other things– provides advice on food safety matters to IDPH, is not mandated by statute but is supported through an FDA Food Safety Task Force Grant. In other words, money from a federal agency–that has banned raw milk in interstate commerce and would like to see it banned in intrastate commerce–funded a workgroup to draft regulations for raw milk production and sales. Aside from funding the workgroup, FDA also has one of its own employees, Larry Trandel, on the workgroup.

Journalist Tom Kocal of the Prairie Advocate News in Lanark, Illinois wrote a series of articles on the dairy workgroup, including coverage of a workgroup meeting on May 1, 2013, that was open to the public. Kocal quotes Lamb as saying that since IDPH had adopted the federal government Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the IDPH must now create rules for raw milk simply because the Act says it must. Lamb’s statement is not true. There is nothing in FSMA that requires a state to issue regulations governing raw milk. For Lamb to even make that claim shows the influence FDA (and its money—during fiscal year 2012, IDPH received over $894,000 in grants from FDA) has over the Illinois Department of Public Health. In case anyone needed to be reminded of FDA’s position on raw milk, Trandel stated at the meeting that “We [FDA] do not consider raw milk safe for human consumption. All raw milk is considered potentially adulterated.”

To summarize:

      1. The Illinois Department of Public Health is issuing proposed regulations that will make it more difficult for raw milk producers to remain in business even though there has not been a single foodborne illness outbreak attributed to an Illinois raw milk producer going back to at least 1998.
      2. A dairy workgroup, not mandated by the legislature but funded by an FDA grant, drafted the proposed regulations.
      3. FDA has banned raw milk in interstate commerce and would have it banned in intrastate commerce if it had its way, believing all raw milk is “potentially adulterated.”
      4. FDA has no jurisdiction to regulate raw milk in Illinois.
      5. FDA has evidently convinced IDPH that the Food Safety Modernization Act requires the department to issue regulations on raw milk production and sales even though the Act does not.

Illinois law and policy on raw milk production and sales should be made in Illinois not in Washington. FDA has no business meddling in raw milk sales within the State of Illinois.


Once IDPH introduces the proposed rules there will be a 45-day comment period in which supporters of raw milk and freedom of choice will have an opportunity to make their views known to IDPH.

Ask the department to withdraw the proposed regulations and let a policy that has worked well for many years remain in place. If any branch of government should be acting on this issue, it should be the state legislature passing a bill to codify the existing policy. Stop the FDA end-around on representative government in Illinois.

For updates on the proposed regulations, please check the Illinois Alliance for Raw Milk Facebook page and the FTCLDF website.

Read the Full Article Here.