West Virginians will soon be able to drink raw milk legally, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed legislation allowing “herd sharing” Thursday.
“Herd sharing” is an arrangement in which people buy shares in an animal, to receive milk from the animal. Direct sale of raw milk remains illegal in West Virginia. Those wishing to purchase an animal share must sign a document acknowledging the risks of raw milk especially to pregnant women, children and those with compromised immune systems.
Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year, but his office said that oversight requirements in this year’s bill eased the concerns he had about public health.
This year’s bill (SB 387) requires the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Resources, to write rules regulating the consumption of raw milk. Last year’s bill did not require such rule-making.
Still, local health officials had been critical of allowing raw milk, noting that risks of bacteria contamination, and serious health problems, are much higher than they are for pasteurized milk.
“I cannot understand why we would knowingly put people’s health at risk,” Dr. Michael Brumage, health officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said last month, “for something with no nutritional benefit over pasteurized milk.”