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Labeling Raw Milk as Risky

April 06, 1986

If unpasteurized milk is to remain commercially available, the Legislature should act immediately to require an appropriate warning label. That is clearer now than ever before with completion of a careful, 30-month study by researchers at the UCLA School of Health.

The study was funded by the raw-milk industry in the hope, we presume, that different conclusions would be reached. Alta-Dena Dairies, a major producer of unpasteurized dairy products and a long-time foe of regulations on raw milk, was quick to challenge the findings. But the challenge was not persuasive. The research is.

Once again scientists have found greatly elevated incidences of Salmonella dublin among consumers of raw milk. Salmonella causes, as the researchers noted, "life-threatening illness."

Legislation (AB 4414) calling for warning labels on raw milk has already been introduced in the California Legislature. Curiously, the entire dairy industry has joined in opposition, apparently fearing that warnings on one product would lead to warnings on others. That is absurd. The proposal is simply to allow consumers to distinguish between dairy products that, for lack of pasteurization, carry a demonstrated risk, and those that do not.

This new report gives added urgency to the adoption of the legislation. The proposed warning is respectful of those who want to continue consuming the product, but it would allow an informed decision by those taking the inherent risks. We are confident that the legislators will be listening not to the special dairy interests but to the pediatricians and other health-service providers who understand the seriousness of the risks of drinking raw milk.

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