Activists want "milk moonshine" legalized.     Photo: Getty Images

Raw Milk Movement Gains Traction

But health officials consider ban

The milk you buy at the store does not come straight from the cow—the utter-to-bucket method is long gone. Your milk must be pasteurized, or heated to kill bacteria, before it can be legally sold to you. But across America, people are sipping raw, unpasteurized milk, purchased on the black market, and food activists and other supporters are fighting to legalize it, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the risk of illnesses among children and adults who drink it.

In fact, the CDC estimates that 1 to 3 percent of Americans are drinking raw milk—even if it is illegal for dairy farmers to sell and transport their product across state lines. A gallon of the black or "gray" market goods can go for $12, often sold through buyer's clubs or local coops. 

So far this legislative session, 40 bills have been introduced in 23 state capitols, all seeking to legalize unpasteurized milk within state borders, the Washington Post reports. 

"The government is not listening to what consumers are asking for," farmer Fallon Morell told the Post. "People are sick and tired of industrialized food."

Health concerns remain a topic of debate. Officials found that in a dozen cases, pathogens from drinking unpasteurized milk can lead to kidney failure, with paralysis occurring in at least two. 

The Post article continues: 

"The CDC, which analyzed more than a decade of outbreak data, said the chance of getting sick as part of an outbreak caused by raw milk is 150 times greater than from pasteurized milk. The agency reported that 796 people in 24 states had become sick after consuming raw milk between 2006 and 2011, the latest years for which complete data are available."

Despite warnings from health officials, activists stand by the belief that pasteurization may kill not only bacteria, but also enzymes and other properties that can cure allergies and asthma. 

Since the FDA's crackdown on Amish farms in Pennsylvania selling raw milk back in 2010, nonprofits such as the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Washington, D.C.-based Weston A. Price Foundation have been spearheading the raw-milk legalization movement. Protesters went so far as to drink raw milk in front of the U.S. Capitol.