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Farmers, consumers, store owners fight raw milk ban

BY BRIGITTE RUTHMAN | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Article from Republican-American

Farmers, food store owners and consumers have banded together to try and stop the state from removing raw milk from retail store shelves.

The new Connecticut Farmstead Dairy Alliance was formed in the aftermath of discussions in February when legislators considered a bill, endorsed by the state Department of Agriculture, that would have tightened restrictions on raw milk sales and banned retail sales to assure a safe supply.

The bill did not gain enough support to be put to a vote. With the support of Agriculture Commissioner and Winsted native F. Philip Prelli, it is expected to resurface someday.

Farmers say it could limit raw milk sales to those within traveling distance of farms that sell it, and make it harder for the dairy industry to survive against rising costs and shrinking profits. The popularity of raw milk offers dairy farmers another option, one that can be more profitable.

Just as Prohibition pushed alcohol sales into illegal and unregulated territory, a raw milk ban would create a black market, they say.

Prelli told legislators in February the new rules were prompted, in part, by a July outbreak of E. coli that sickened seven people in the Granby area. Raw milk is inherently risky, he said, no matter how carefully it is collected.

"There is a reason why we have been pasteurizing milk for more than 50 years," he said. "Before that, 25 percent of food illnesses came from milk products, and that number is now down to one percent. It's one thing to go to the farm and make a decision and effort to buy raw milk and another to buy it in the store where it is presumed safe."

More attention is currently given to monitor health and safety standards at the state's 14 farms that produce raw milk than the 150 others that send their milk to be heated and churned to kill bacteria and increase shelf live, processes known as homogenization and pasteurization.

The Alliance, which has a steering committee of seven, is working to develop a manual of management practices for farmers and to educate consumers. A Web site is planned. The group will also serve as a voice in Hartford for the state's 14 licensed raw milk producers, a number that is expected to grow as interest in community supported agriculture and locally grown produce expands.

To read the complete story see Tuesday's Republican-American or our electronic edition at http://republicanamerican.ct.newsmemory.com.

 

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