Last week in Washington State, new legislation was enacted to safeguard public health by closing the loophole that allows people to purchase one or more shares in a milk cow, goat or sheep from an unlicensed dairy in return for a portion of the milk produced.
Now, cow-shares must be licensed by the state; a first violation is a misdemeanor. A subsequent violation is considered a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $5,000 and up to a year in prison.
Dr. Douglas Powell, scientific director of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, feels that with proper testing, it may be possible to offer a safe, unpasteurized product to the consuming public. However, he notes that the only difference between raw and pasteurized milk is the presence of harmful bacteria, and that there is no nutritional difference between the two.
Harmful bacteria that can be present in raw milk include salmonella and E.coli. A recent outbreak in Washington sickened at least 18 people, almost killing 2 children.