A new bill introduced to the North Dakota Legislative Assembly’s Joint Agriculture Committee would not only permit the sale of raw milk in that state, but would prohibit any warning labels on the product and shift the risk burden to consumers. House Bill No. 1433 is supported by Representatives Luke Simmons, Rick C. Becker, Daniel Johnston, Dwight Kiefert, Jeffery Magrum, Kim Koppelman, Christopher Olson, Nathan Toman, and Mike Schatz. Senators Oley Larsen and Jordan Kannianen also support it.
The milk must be sold directly from the producer to the consumer and be only for home consumption. The milk can be sold at a farm, ranch, farmers market, farm stand, or home-based kitchen. The producer must tell the consumer that the milk is not “certified, labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated, or inspected.”
It also states that “any informed end consumer who purchases products under this section assumes the inherent risks in the purchase, use, or ingestion of the food or food product purchased, whether those risks are known or unknown, and is legally responsible for any property damage or other damage, injury, or death resulting from the inherent risks of purchasing or infesting a food product under this section.”
Public health officials are prohibited from adding warning labels to the product with this phrase, “notwithstanding any other provision of law, a state agency or political subdivision may not require licensure, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, or labeling that pertains to the preparation, serving, use, consumption, or storage of foods or food products under this section.”
The North Dakota Department of Health has an evergreen page stating the risks of consuming raw milk. It says, “raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can cause diarrhea, stomach cramping and vomiting. Less commonly, it can lead to kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders and even death.
“Raw milk and raw milk products (such as cheeses and yogurts made with raw milk) can be contaminated with bacteria such as Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Shigella, Streptococcus pyogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica.”
The page on ND Health also says that “raw milk and raw milk products can be contamianted with bacteria that cause serious illness, hospitalization, or even death. From 1998 through 2011, 148 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported to CDC. These resulted in 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. Most of the illnesses were caused by E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella or Listeria.
“A substantial proportion of the raw milk-associated disease burden falls on children; among the 104 outbreaks from 1998-2011 with information on the patients’ ages available, 82% involved at least one person younger than 20 years old. Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk likely is greater.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree with the ND Department of Health, stating that outbreaks linked to raw milk are more common in states where raw milk is legal.
There have been four raw milk outbreaks in the U.S. in the last five months. A Campylobacter outbreak linked to Sweet Grass Dairy raw milk in Ohio sickened an undetermined number of people. A Campylobacter outbreak in Colorado sickened at least 20 people after they drank raw milk from Larga Vista Ranch in Pueblo County. A Cryptosporidium outbreak in New Mexico associated with raw milk sickened at least six people. And a Salmonella outbreak in Utah sickened at least nine people after they consumed raw milk produced by Heber Valley Raw Milk.