NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Wisconsin should be very cautious about the raw milk bill. Governor Doyle says he may sign it if it reaches his desk. It would allow dairy farmers to sell unpasturized milk straight from the cow.
Some farmers see this is a small side-business where they can eliminate the middle man and make some money. Beyond economics, many see this as a limited-government issue.
But there are risks. Unpasturized milk can contain bacteria. In some rare cases it can cause serious illness. Supporters of the raw milk bill say people should be told of the risks and make their own choice, just like when people eat raw seafood or order a rare steak.
But while individuals will make their own choices about whether to drink raw milk, there will be wide-reaching publicity and repercussions if people become ill. The danger is that the public will perceive that “Wisconsin milk” is unsafe. We would know that isn’t true, but perception is reality, and the state would spend a tremendous amount of time and effort convincing the public that pasteurized, processed milk from Wisconsin is ok to drink.
There's a history of mob mentality about our food. When there’s a salmonella scare over spinach or tomatoes, all growers take the loss even the problem is eventually traced to just one farm. We’ve seen similar issues with irradiated food, which appears to be totally safe, but is still facing some marketplace resistance. Some genetically-modified food still can't be sold in Europe. And Wisconsin farmers remember the national debate over milk hormones for cows.
Should Wisconsin put its signature industry at risk because some farmers want to sell raw milk? I think not.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau