UPDATE: Bill to legalize raw milk sales up for public hearing - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Bill to legalize raw milk sales pits farmers against public health officials

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The legalization of raw milk sales is back up for debate at the State Capitol.

The public got to speak out on a bipartisan bill Thursday which is very similar to the one that passed the legislature in 2010, only to be vetoed by then Governor Jim Doyle.

Proponents of raw milk say it is safe and healthy, but the dairy industry and medical groups that comprise the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition say the science proves otherwise.

It was easy to tell who supported raw milk sales at the hearing, as they all wore white hats with the words "milk freedom" written on them.

"I think this is first and foremost a subject about freedom," said Vincent Hunt, a dairy farmer who said he has drunk raw milk his entire life.  "Legalization of the sale of unpasteurized milk would bring Wisconsin up to speed with 30 to 33 states, depending on how you define the legislation in each state, and most of the world."

Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) is one of the bill's Assembly sponsors who testified that the scope of the sales would be limited.

"We're not talking about retail sales here," said Rep. Danou.  "We're talking about direct farm to consumer sales, where if you want raw milk you gotta go direct to the farm and buy it.  Its something you're actively seeking out as a consumer."

But the Chief Medical Officer at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin says even small scale sales like that are dangerous.

"While I respect and appreciate free choice, when that free choice may unnecessarily affect the health of children, its important for that consideration to be raised and for us to take pause," said Dr. Michael Gutzeit, M.D.

"And, whether it be the cheese makers or whether it be the medical society or others, we do not see room to compromise because the product is unsafe," said Shawn Pfaff, Spokesperson for the WI Safe Milk Coalition.

Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) authored the bill and believes raw milk is safe.  But he says even if some believe it isn't, there are already a lot of legal products people can consume whose safety is debatable.

"If I want to go to one of these sushi places in Madison here there's always a little sign on the bottom that says you shouldn't eat raw fish," said Sen. Grothman.  "But I have sushi all the time around here and I'm glad Wisconsin's fishing industry doesn't object."

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Senate bill that would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers is up for a public hearing at the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would specifically allow dairy farmers to register with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for the purposes of selling unpasteurized milk and milk products to consumers on the farm, without obtaining a milk producers license or grade A permit.  A license and permit would still be needed for those dairy farmers who want to sell unpasteurized milk to a dairy plant.

The public hearing is at 2:00 p.m. in Room 411 South, in front of the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues. 

Prior to the public hearing at 1:00 p.m., the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition will hold a news conference in the Assembly Parlor on their opposition to the legalization of the sale raw milk.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have live reports on today's public hearing on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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