Alaska Says Drinking Raw Milk Is Possible Fatal Risk, But Could Make It Legal

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Until now, when it comes to raw milk, the State of Alaska has taken care of the public health of its inhabitants. An easy-to-find fact sheet on the state website by the state veterinarian says:

“Raw milk can contain foodborne pathogens. These pathogens can be excreted in the milk directly by the animal or enter the milk from the environment. These pathogens pose a threat to the health of consumers of raw milk.

The Alaska Division of Public Health and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation publish “Raw Milk Facts” on the state portal. “Raw milk has been recognized as a source of disease for over 100 years,” he says.

He explains the risks this way: “Unpasteurized milk can contain bacteria such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella.

“While some people exposed to these bacteria develop no symptoms, others may develop nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and short-term cramps.

“The illnesses can last a week or more, and some people even develop serious long-term consequences resulting in kidney failure or paralysis. These infections are particularly serious in people who are very young, very old or have weakened immune systems.

“They can even be deadly.”

These warnings across the Alaska government go hand in hand with existing regulations that prohibit the sale of raw milk and raw milk products. Their consumption is reserved for a person who owns the cow, sheep or goat that produced the raw milk.

Alaska’s raw milk regulations allow so-called “cow sharing” agreements. And in the recent 2021 session, the Alaska Legislature chose to give “cow sharing” agreements the force of law. It was a signal that lawmakers are interested in helping small dairy farms diversify the economy.

But Alaska is now ready to wave caution. On January 17, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation called for public comment on regulatory changes to allow the sale of raw milk and raw milk products in the state.

The public has until February 22 to comment. on the proposed changes.

A public health insider in Alaska says, “The proposed rules are woefully unprotective.

The department is proposing changes to Title 19 of the Alaska Administrative Code dealing with milk and milk products in a new section that includes various changes and clarifications.

The changes would allow the production and sale of raw milk.

The new section would include requirements for facilities, containers, operations, drug residues, transfers, sales, routine screening, animal health, testing, record keeping, inspections, verification, ownership, compliance and definitions.

The department invites individuals to comment on the costs of complying with the proposed new regulations.

Under Alaska’s administrative law, the state can adopt any or all of the proposed regulations or “provisions dealing with the same subject”.

The contemplated regulatory changes would amend existing legislation as set out below:

Raw Milk Laws and Regulations in Alaska

Retail sale of raw milk authorized — No
Other sale of raw milk authorized — No

Citations18 AAC 32.020; 18 YY 32.060

Requirements Adopts the Class “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and other CFR regulations requiring pasteurization; restrict outlets for raw milk from the farm — must either be sent for processing or be marked as not intended for human consumption; The requirements do not apply to a cow that is privately owned and milked for personal use (cow-sharing “loophole”).

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