Kansas legislators contemplate raw milk ban, warning labels

RAW MILK

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas lawmakers are considering blocking the sale of raw milk or requiring farmers to include warning labels on packaging after the state abandoned a law prohibiting farmers from advertising raw milk outside their farm.

The state stopped enforcing the ban after Shepherd’s Gate Dairy operators Mark and Coraleen Bunner filed a lawsuit against the state in October.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the state Department of Agriculture settled the lawsuit in November resulting in the end of the ban. Schmidt admitted the law was “plainly unconstitutional.”

Pasteurized milk undergoes a heating process to kill pathogens. Raw milk that comes straight from a cow or goat is much more likely to carry salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

But those who drink and sell raw milk think of it as an all-natural product that brings people closer to the source of their food.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee endorsed a bill Thursday that would allow the on-farm sale of raw, unpasteurized milk, so long as each container sold labels it as such. It goes next to the Senate for debate, possibly next week.

It remains unclear how the Legislature as a whole would vote. A bill to ban the sale of raw milk have also been proposed.

“I think that people should have the choice to eat what they want,” said Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco. “We have a lot of other substances we know are not good for people and we allow those.”

While state legislators decide on an approach, consumers and farmers in consumers are weighing in on both sides of the issue.

“Our consumers of raw milk educate themselves. They’re not stupid people,” said Mary Powell, a Longton resident with more than 30 years of livestock experience.

Aaron Pauly, who milks 160 cows on his farm in Sedgwick County, said the bill would stop unregulated sales to uninformed members of the public.

“There’s a certain nostalgia associated with the way our grandparents or even our great-grandparents operated the farms and the food they ate,” Pauly said. But society has progressed “to a higher standard of living.”

Tucker Stewart, a Kansas Livestock Association lobbyist, said labeling is important because the state banned the advertising law. Raw milk can now be advertised to more people, he added.

“You might not be targeting those consumers who really understand the dangers of raw milk,” Stewart said.

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