Congressman Thomas Massie Aims to Fight Federal Ban on Interstate Sale of Raw Milk with New Legislation


Here’s a brief overview of how Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie is trying to undue a federal ban on the interstate sale of raw milk. With his “Milk Freedom Act” and “Interstate Milk Freedom Act” Massie, as well as other U.S. house representatives from both parties, aim to undue the ban that was never passed by Congress, but rather implemented due to a district court ruling.

Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie is planning to reintroduce legislation this year that seeks to end a federal ban on raw milk. The representative, who holds both a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, both from MIT, first introduced the legislation in 2014. His two proposed bills, the “Milk Freedom Act” and the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act,” were written to “improve consumer food choices and to protect local farmers from federal interference” according to Massie.

The bills, if passed, would prevent the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from maintaining its current ban on the sale and shipment of raw milk across state lines. Critically, as Massie notes, the FDA ban on the interstate sale of raw milk does not come from any law Congress has passed. On the contrary, the regulation on non-pasteurized milk stems from a December 1986, U.S. district court ruling.

The court was presented with a lawsuit in which the Washington-based nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen’s Health Research Group—which was co-founded by worshipper of the State and activist Ralph Nader—argued that it was wrong for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to deny its citizen petition, which called for the issuance of a rule banning the sale of unpasteurized milk. The judge ruled the HHS did not have the right to deny the petition and ended up compelling the head of HHS to approve a rule “banning the interstate sale of all raw milk and all raw milk products, both certified and non-certified… .”

Link to ruling

Speaking on the topic of the 1987 FDA regulation Massie said:

Here you have essentially a law that’s on the books that came out of the judicial and administrative branch, and never came through the legislative branch. I’m trying to remedy that situation. What good purpose does it serve for the federal government to prosecute someone for taking food from one state where it’s legal to another state where it’s legal.

The de facto federal law has remained in place for the past three and a half decades. Over that period the federal government has sent SWAT teams to raid unpasteurized milk establishments, fined rural dairy farmers, and targeted Amish communities’ over the matter.

Pro-raw milk advocates and pro-freedom individuals believe the FDA’s regulations are an example of government overreach. The FDA regulations upon which the judge’s ruling were based claim unpasteurized milk is banned “as a basic public health measure to kill dangerous bacteria and largely eliminate the risk of getting sick from one of the most important staples of the American diet.” But raw milk supporters often cite European studies that show unpasteurized milk provides essential nutrients and boosts the immune system. A 2011 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, for example, found that raw milk helps protect one from asthma and allergies, while pasteurized milk does not. A 2007 study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, which analyzed over 14,000 children between the ages of 5-13, came to the same conclusion.

As Reason reported in February of this year, a handful of states are also considering bills that would see them legalize the sale of raw milk directly to consumers. States considering the changes to their laws include North Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, and Washington. Even NPR reported in 2015 that “[Consumers] say they buy raw milk because it doesn’t contain the growth hormone rGBH, they like the taste, and they enjoy having a direct connection to the food they eat.”

Massie’s proposed legislation is bipartisan. Both the Milk Freedom Act and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act were introduced with the support of Montana Democrat Chellie Pingree and a coalition of other representatives from both political parties. Massie also continues to talk up the benefits of raw milk on Twitter (see immediately above). He first attempted to undue the ban on interstate raw-milk sale and transport with standalone bills in 2014 and 2015.

Feature image: cheeseslave

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