Raw milk supporters say it's part of 'food justice' debate

Milk in the retail shop at Shaw Farm in Dracut. (Joe Difazio/WBUR)
Milk in the retail shop at Shaw Farm in Dracut. (Joe Difazio/WBUR)

Raw milk consumers and sellers are once again asking lawmakers to expand access to the controversial dairy product.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association contends raw milk, or unpasteurized milk, is healthier and tastes better than milk that has been through the sterilization process. They list benefits including high levels of calcium, amino acids and vitamins, as well as "beneficial bacteria" that can "rebalance a digestive system unable to process many foods, and can restore the immune system."

But, regulators are wary of the product.

"Raw milk can contain a variety of disease-causing pathogens, as demonstrated by numerous scientific studies. These studies, along with numerous foodborne outbreaks, clearly demonstrate the risk associated with drinking raw milk," the FDA says on its website.

Currently, Massachusetts dairies can only sell raw milk on their farms, and cannot bring it to farmers markets or do home delivery. On its website NOFA reports there are more than 24 farms in Massachusetts licensed to sell raw milk from their farm stores.

Sen. Anne Gobi of Spencer, who has previously sponsored legislation to expand access to raw milk, filed a bill (S 43) again this session to allow dairy farmers to deliver raw milk directly to consumers and from farm stands.

"We get calls all the time for people who would be consumers in the Boston area who, you know, just can't get the hour or more outside of the city to find a place to buy raw milk," Jocelyn Langer, executive director of NOFA, said at an Agriculture Committee hearing on the bill on Monday. "By allowing for delivery, the Legislature would support food justice and increase the economic viability of small dairies. We want farming to remain a viable business in this state, and for our food security and for the health and happiness that comes from eating fresh nourishing food."

Between 2013 and 2018, 75 outbreaks with 675 illnesses occurred in the U.S. that were linked to unpasteurized milk, according to a recent study publicized by the CDC. In states where the sale of raw milk was expressly allowed, there was estimated to be 3.2 times greater number of outbreaks, according to the report.


More from WBUR

Listen Live