“Raw milk” dairies resisting state regulation
TAD continues to support pasteurization
By Darren Turley, TAD executive director
Over the last few years, Texas has seen an increase in small farms marketing unpasteurized milk, also known as “raw milk,” extolling health and other virtues over pasteurized milk produced by the state’s dairy industry. One such dairy is the Waldo Way Dairy in Mineola, which is in East Texas. While some consumers may believe there is virtue in the absence of processing, there is more to that story.
To be clear, the Texas Association of Dairymen firmly agrees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that consuming raw milk is a serious health risk. TAD believes pasteurization is necessary for dairy food safety. For a number of legislative sessions, TAD has opposed bills that would expand the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk in Texas, which individuals currently can only buy at the farm where it is produced.
In recent years, the state has issued fewer permits to dairies producing raw milk; yet the number of farms advertising raw milk sales has grown to three times the number of farms permitted. This has put a burden on the Texas Department of State Health Services – the agency charged with inspecting raw milk dairies – as staff is limited and finding non-permitted dairies is a slow process. The reality is that these facilities are operating outside the regulatory system the state has put in place for all dairy facilities.
Recently, state health inspectors were denied access to Waldo Way Dairy. The owners claimed the dairy is now a private buyers club and, therefore, not subject to state regulation.
The raw milk industry in the state has become very resistant to regulations, with producers refusing to pay fines again and again and forcing the state to send collections to the Texas Attorney General, where most remain due to the lack of enforcement on cases below the $15,000 level.
The raw milk industry is essentially operating without regulation, and now Waldo Way Dairy – one of the largest – is taking a stand.
TAD fears that with raw milk dairies avoiding inspection and regulation, it is only a matter of time before we see another illness outbreak attributed to raw milk, just like we saw last year in Paradise, Texas, where a woman was hospitalized after contracting Brucella from drinking unpasteurized milk. This spawned an outreach to over 800 homes from California to North Dakota that had purchased or consumed raw milk from this one farm – even though it is against federal law to sell unpasteurized milk across state lines.
The raw milk industry is snubbing its nose at regulation and pushing for increased market access. This is very concerning. The Texas Association of Dairymen has been contacted by legislators in preparation for the 2019 legislative session regarding possible changes to the current rules on raw milk.
TAD expects that once again we’ll see a strong debate on raw milk sales and regulation. And we’ll be right there at the Texas Capitol to oppose any changes that could potentially harm the health of Texans who enjoy our milk and dairy products, or that could threaten the health of the Texas dairy industry.