Headlining raw milk news is that Governor Jim Doyle today vetoed the bill that would have legalized the sale of raw milk in our country’s top dairy state, Wisconsin. I applaud this as a sensible public health measure. Personally, I think it stinks that there have to be legislative limits on what people can eat or drink, but I certainly recognize and respect why it is that way. Personal choice must sometimes give way to public health and safety; and the personal choices at issue are not of constitutional scope, nor are they issues of basic human rights, as the argument is frequently cast by raw milk proponents.
To what extent was Governor Doyle influenced by events in Utah over the past week? Utah health officials have linked two outbreaks—one campylobacter and one salmonella—to the consumption of raw milk. The campylobacter outbreak is linked to raw milk purchased from Ropelato Dairy in Ogden, Utah, and has resulted in at least 9 illnesses in residents of Weber, Davis, and Cache counties. On Monday, the Utah Department of Health suspended Ropelato Dairy’s permit to sell raw milk. Coliform testing done on milk at the dairy showed high coliform counts, which suggest the presence of disease-causing bacteria, like campylobacter, in the milk.
The second raw milk outbreak in Utah (a salmonella outbreak) sickened at least 6 people in late April in Utah, Salt Lake, and Wasatch Counties. The outbreak was linked to raw milk from Redmond Farms in Sevier County. Samples of raw milk produced at the dairy from April 5 to April 22 tested positive for Salmonella.
In case today’s Wisconsin veto has you wondering, raw milk was approved for sale by the Utah Legislature in 2007. "Raw milk, no matter how carefully handled, has risks," said Glen Kinney, Weber- Morgan Health Department epidemiologist. Kinney also said raw milk has made up about a third of the health department’s campy cases in the last year.