BOISE, ID. - The Idaho Senate has approved Senate Bill 1036, a measure that loosens the state's restrictions on raw milk sales. The bill's advocates contend that the legislation will provide more opportunities for small farmers, create local jobs, and help consumers access more locally produced nutrient-rich food.
The bill would permit Idahoans to buy raw milk from farmers or buy into a cow-share or herd-share program to acquire raw milk products. However, critics warn that the proposed law could have dangerous health consequences. Raw milk, which has not gone through a pasteurization process, carries a higher risk of bacterial infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unpasteurized milk and cheese are responsible for nearly all cases of dairy-related illnesses. Bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella are commonly found in raw milk. Consumption of raw milk can lead to serious infections, particularly in children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
Due to safety concerns, Idaho has previously banned the sale of raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products to the public. However, the new law would allow cow- and herd-share programs to provide raw milk to consumers.
In a public hearing on the bill, those favoring the legislation argued that the current laws prevent them from selling milk products directly to consumers. These small farmers and ranchers believe that the bill would help them make a decent living and that they are not asking for much, only for the freedom to sell their products.
Raw milk advocates say pasteurization kills beneficial bacteria that can boost the immune system and promote healthy digestion. But opponents point out that raw milk has no significant health benefits that cannot be found in other, safer foods.
Currently, only a handful of states permit raw milk sales, and many states have tightened their raw milk laws in recent years. According to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, only 12 states currently allow raw milk sales in stores, while others only permit sales through cow-share or herd-share programs.
Opponents of the bill argue that the new law would jeopardize Idaho's public health, pointing to the potential for disease outbreaks. For example, in 2017, a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw milk from a Utah dairy sickened over 60 people in six states.
However, supporters argue that Idaho consumers should be free to choose what they eat and drink. They believe it is a fundamental right to access wholesome and unprocessed food and that the government should not dictate what people can or cannot put into their bodies.
Despite the controversy, the bill has passed in the Senate and now goes to the Idaho House of Representatives for consideration. If the bill is passed into law, it will go into effect immediately. As such, Idaho will join the other states in allowing raw milk sales to consumers.
Comments / 12