January 22, 2009
By: Joseph R. Holstead, Associate Analyst
You asked for information on recent bills to ban the sale of raw milk that the legislature has considered, including the legislative history of such proposals, as it is your understanding that pending legislation this Session looks to ban raw milk sales.
BAN ON SALE OF RAW MILK
In 2002, SB 80, An Act Concerning the Sale of Raw Milk, proposed to ban anyone from selling or giving away unpasteurized (raw) milk. It was the only bill we found going back to 1988 proposing a raw milk sales ban and was not reported out of committee with the ban in tact.
On February 15, 2002, the Environment Committee held a public hearing on SB 80 as a sales ban. Proponents of the ban argued that raw milk is a potential threat to public health. The Department of Agriculture requested the bill and its commissioner's testimony best sums up the support for it. At a February 15, 2002 public hearing, then Agriculture Commissioner Bruce Gresczyk said:
“We took this information of the department [a series of cases in which people were sickened by raw milk] to the State Milk Regulation Board and within about a few seconds the farmers on that Board voted to request the department or ask the department to go forward for a ban on the sale. And they had the health concerns, and they also had the concerns of what it does to the industry as a whole and a black eye on dairy products. But in either case, I'm here today with this legislation and we're asking you to move it forward.”
Opponents of the ban argued for the natural health benefits of raw milk. Dorothea DiCecco, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Connecticut at Waterbury's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, stated that she, “believe[s] that [raw milk dairy farmers'] product poses no more threat to human health than any other foods.” She also noted that most infection outbreaks from food sources, according to her research, are the result of “…improper handling not from…the raw dairy farm.”
On March 11, 2002, the committee favorably reported to the Senate a substitute that replaced the ban with a mandatory warning label on raw milk containers that stated: “WARNING: Raw milk has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria.” On April 3 the Senate referred the bill to the General Law Committee, which favorably reported it on April 10.
On April 17, the Senate passed the bill. On April 24, the House amended the bill to specify that it did not cover the production of macaroni and passed it, sending it back to the Senate. On May 1, the Senate rejected the amendment and passed the bill, sending it back to the House. The bill subsequently died on the House Calendar.
Although SB 80 did not become law, On October 1, 2005 the Department of Agriculture adopted regulations that require raw milk producers to inform consumers of the “…risks involved with the consumption of raw or undercooked animal food by conspicuously labeling each container with the following advisory statement 'Raw milk is not pasteurized, pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health,'” (Regs. Conn. State Agencies § 22-133-132).