Is raw milk getting a raw deal in the state?
WHO better to advocate for changes in milk law than a dairy farmer named Tinia Creamer. As reported by West Virginia
Public Broadcasting's Glynis Board, Creamer is a young Huntington area farmer outspoken on the issue of milk.
Creamer raises dairy goats and miniature Derby cows. She's the Huntington area leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, an international food advocacy group and strong promoters of raw, or "real" milk.
Under current law, only people who keep goats or cows have access to the milk those animals produce. She is aware of the risks of consuming that milk and thinks other adults are as well, just as they are aware of the risks posed by eating raw oysters and sushi.
"We allow the public access to tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals that are over the counter with known side effects," Creamer said. "And we say, 'Use this at your risk.' And then turn around and say, 'But you can't have milk. It's too dangerous.'"
The Price Foundation says raw milk is rich in ingredients that help the body digest and absorb calcium and protein. Raw milk also contains fatty acids which protect against disease and stimulate the immune system.
Raw milk sales also may help the state's small farmers, Creamer said. In the growing sustainable food movement, raw milk fetches $8 to $10 per gallon.
But the risks aren't worth it, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources.
Commissioner for Public Health Dr. Letitia Tierney is proud of West Virginia's record as a state with some of the strictest regulations regarding the sale and distribution of raw milk, which has been illegal since 1968.
"The reality is raw milk contains bacteria and many of them can be harmful," Tierney told public broadcasting's Board. "These bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk or eats food made from raw milk, but it's especially dangerous to people who have weakened immune systems like older adults, pregnant women or kids - up through teenage years," Tierney said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges states to continue to support pasteurization and consider restricting or prohibiting the sale or distribution of raw milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises families against giving children unpasteurized milk.
But shouldn't West Virginia adults have the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to consume pasteurized or raw milk and other dairy products?
The question is worthy of debate in the 2014 legislative session.