BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Arguments of choice versus public safety are heated in a fight about whether to let Louisiana farmers sell raw milk to the public.
The full state House will consider a bill that would allow sales of unpasteurized milk, after it was advanced in a 9-6 vote Thursday by the House Agriculture Committee.
Approval came despite opposition from Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who said farmers couldn't guarantee that unpasteurized milk would be safe because it doesn't go through the heating process designed to kill harmful bacteria. Louisiana's state health officer, Jimmy Guidry, told lawmakers he wouldn't allow his family to drink raw milk.
Supporters of raw milk say pasteurization takes away some of milk's nutritional benefits.
Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, and Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, said legalization of raw milk sales would give let people make their own decisions. They said their bill includes safety measures modeled off other states.
"We should have the freedom to decide what to feed ourselves and our families," said Audry Salvador, of Sulphur, describing the measure as helping small farmers and rural economies.
Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, questioned why the bill would absolve farmers of liability if a safety problem develops.
"They made that choice when they go to the farmer," Ortego said.
Johnson replied: "Why are we doing that if this is so safe?"
Rep. Simone Champagne, a supporter of the bill, said she enjoys raw oysters, and she noted that they come with a disclaimer about people eating at their own risk.
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