West Virginia has one of the strictest laws in the nation regarding the sale of raw milk, but a bill introduced Monday in the state Senate could change that.
Senate Bill 478 would make the sale of raw, or unpasteurized, milk legal beginning January 2015. According to the proposal, the state Department of Agriculture would be responsible for establishing rules - including regulatory standards - that must be approved by the Legislature.
State Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, said he introduced the bill because many of his constituents have expressed interest in selling goat milk locally or making cheese and other products.
"Most people generations ahead of me . . . drank raw milk," Hall said. "It doesn't really happen that much anymore unless you have a goat farm and drink goat milk. There is legitimate business and agricultural purpose for raw milk. We don't allow it here."
Current law bans the sale of raw milk, meaning farmers who want to sell their products to neighbors or at farmers markets are barred from doing so. Hall said the law was put in place for health reasons, but goes too far.
"In the past, there were a lot of issues with infant mortality rates and things like that with pregnant mothers drinking raw milk," he said. "West Virginia went very far with it to make it very strict to protect the citizens, but I think we may have went too far. Maybe we can bring it back a little bit."
In 2012, 35 people, including two West Virginia residents, fell ill after drinking raw milk from a farm in Pennsylvania. According to CBS News, campylobacter bacterial infection caused the farm to suspend production. The Food and Drug Administration warns raw milk contains harmful microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to consumers.
Hall said there is a large contingency of West Virginia residents who want to see raw milk legalized for a variety of reasons.