Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting
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Controversy Raised Over Raw Milk

Massachusetts Farmers Say Demand Is Growing, Despite FDA Warning

BOSTON -- Milk is widely seen as one of the most healthy beverages available. But some people argue the milk we buy in stores is not healthy, and some turn to local farms to buy raw milk, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that raw milk may not be safe.

Tucked away behind Gillette Stadium, off a well-traveled road, is a historic dairy farm.

"It's been in the family since I guess the 1730s, but mostly on this site since the 1800s," said Terri Lawton.

Pieces of the past scatter Lawton's Family Farm. But Lawton has a unique way of keeping the business fresh.

"We sell raw milk directly from the farm. We don't process the milk at all," she said. "We take it from the cows and put it through a filter and make it colder, and put it right in the bottle." "It doesn't have any additives, and it's not cooked at all."

There's a huge demand for untreated, unprocessed, unpasteurized milk, according to Lawton. But it's only legal to sell in 27 U.S. states. Massachusetts is one of them.

"I have folks that come from as far north as Andover, Mass., and then I have folks who come from Wellfleet," she said.

"I come here to pick up raw milk for my family and 17 other families who live near me," said Tracy Harrison, of Hopkinton, Mass.

"This was the closest place. It was 28 miles," said Mike Andrews, of Lincoln, R.I.

Raw milk drinkers are buying it for the health benefits.

"It's natural and it's healthy, and we should only have what mother nature intended for us," said Andrews.

"Raw milk has beneficial bacteria in it," said Harrison.

They believe pasteurization destroys the good bacteria and enzymes that keep us healthy. But the Food and Drug Administration warns against drinking raw milk. The FDA says, "Raw milk can harbor dangerous micro-organisms that pose serious health risks..." And according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 people have gotten sick from unpasteurized dairy since 1998. Despite government warnings, customers won't let that stop them from drinking fresh, raw milk.

"Raw milk is inherently safe," said Harrison.

"I'm not concerned about it at all," said Gil Mason, of Newton, Mass. "I drank raw milk when I was a child. Me and my family never had any problems drinking it."

"There's risks with other types of foods. Three years and I'm fine," said Andrews.

The FDA allows each state to decide if farms can sell raw milk. There are guidelines each farm must follow.

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