West Virginia bills would allow sale of raw, unpasteurized milk

West Virginia lawmakers are considering allowing increased sales of raw milk in their state.

Two bills have been introduced so far this session. The first, House Bill 4911, would allow the sale of unpasteurized raw milk as long as the containers are clearly labeled as ungraded raw milk. The bill, introduced by Delegate Michael Hornby, would also grant raw milk producers immunity from civil liability related to the consumption of their unpasteurized products.

The other bill before West Virginia lawmakers, House Bill 4736, is the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act. It would “enable the sale and consumption of fresh raw milk and home-made and on-farm raw milk products and would encourage the expansion of sales of raw milk dairy products by small agricultural producers and the accessibility of their products to informed end consumers.

Bill 4736 would allow the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk directly between the producer and the consumer. This would allow the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to register and inspect small dairies for compliance.

Regulatory elements include milking practices, cleaning, testing and storage.

The bill would prohibit municipalities from having their regulations on raw milk: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law or specific requirement of the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act, no license, permit or certification shall be required by any dairy agency. any political subdivision of the state that relates to the preparation, serving, use, consumption, or storage of raw milk or raw milk products under the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act.

Both bills were referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Bills must be scheduled for hearings in order to move forward in the legislative process.

The transportation and sale of raw milk across state lines is prohibited by federal law. Most local and state health and agricultural departments recommend against drinking raw, unpasteurized milk because bacteria and viruses can contaminate it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend against drinking raw milk. It can be especially dangerous for children, adults over 65, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Many states have laws prohibiting the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk. Some allow it only in herd sharing operations and others allow its sale by farmers directly to individual consumers. A few states, such as California, allow raw milk to be sold in retail stores, but it must have warning labels.

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