An upcoming Feb. 17 vote by the Washington State House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will tell whether a bill to remove regulations from raw milk sold directly from the place of production is a serious threat to public health or just an early session fluke. House Bill 1490, which was the subject of a public committee hearing on Jan. 27, would:
- Exempt certain direct-to-consumer sales of milk from the provisions of the Washington Milk and Milk Products Act.
- Require any milk sold under the exemption to meet certain health and safety standards.
A bipartisan Olympia trie sponsoring the HB 1490 includes Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama; Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles; and Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-Puyallup. The sponsors see the bill as also easing up on the federal prohibition of raw milk in Washington State.
Under current law, raw milk sales outside legitimate herd-sharing agreements are strictly prohibited in Wahington State. Raw milk requires lowering regulator standards, which HB 1490 would accomplish.
The bipartisan legislative staff has provided an analysis of the bill and existing law in the Evergreen State.
Milk production and sale in Washington are governed by the Washington Milk and Milk Products Act, which is administered by the Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and sets out sanitary, animal health, and milk grading standards.
Under the Act, milk producers, distributors, and processors must be licensed by the WSDA.
The 2017 Interstate Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) published by the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is the national standard for milk sanitation.
Adoption of the PMO by states is voluntary; however, complying with the PMO allows milk to move without restriction in interstate commerce. The WSDA has adopted most of the provisions of 2017
PMO through its rulemaking authority under the Act.
The PMO establishes certain chemical, physical, bacteriological, and temperature standards for a variety of Grade “A” milk and milk products, including raw milk, pasteurized milk, ultra-pasteurized milk, whey, and dry milk.
Exact standards vary between milk product types, however, most Grade “A” milk products must test negative for any drugs, and not exceed 10 coliforms per milliliter (ml). Grade “A” pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk and milk product bacterial limits may not exceed 20,000 per ml. Grade “A” raw milk bacterial limits may not exceed 100,000 per ml prior to commingling with other producers’ milk, and commingled milk may not exceed 300,000 per ml prior to pasteurization. The somatic cell count for an individual producer’s raw milk may not exceed 750,000 per ml.
Milk sold directly to the consumer from a small-scale farm is exempt from the requirements of the Washington Milk and Milk Products Act as long as the milk is not advertised for sale and the producer adheres to certain animal health and milk safety requirements.
A small-scale farm is defined as a location where there are no more than two producing dairy cows or nine producing small animals, such as sheep or goats.
Animal health and milk safety requirements include:
- All animals kept by the producer must be free of tuberculosis and brucellosis, as established by annual testing.
- Milk must be tested in at least four separate months during any six-month period using methods approved by the Department of Agriculture.
Test results must find that the milk does not contain:
- any drugs;
- more than 15,000 bacteria per milliliter (ml);
- more than 25 coliform per ml; and
- more than 500,000 somatic cells per ml for raw milk from a cow, or more than750,000 somatic cells per ml for raw milk from a sheep or goat.
Whenever three of the last five consecutive tests exceed any of the milk quality standards, the milk may not be sold until subsequent testing shows that milk again meets the standard.
No appropriation is involved and the sponsors have not requested a fiscal note. The bill would take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.
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