Texas consumers could soon be able to buy raw milk at farmers markets and receive such deliveries straight from the dairy under legislation tentatively approved by the House on Thursday.
House Bill 91 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would allow licensed farmers to sell raw — or unpasteurized — milk at farmers markers and through direct delivery to consumers. The proposed legislation would not allow the sale of raw milk in supermarkets. While raw milk is currently legal in Texas, it can only be sold at farms.
The bill, which passed the House with a preliminary 122-14 vote, has drawn a diverse set of supporters. They include local farm advocates and Republican lawmakers who have underscored the health benefits of unprocessed dairy products and emphasized that legal products deserve a fighting chance on the free market.
"We are so pleased," said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national group that advocates for independent farmers. "Our raw milk farmers produce a safe, healthy product that is in high demand. This is a wonderful step towards granting consumers access to a whole, natural food and removing a restriction that has nothing to do with the safety of the product."
Opponents of the bill, including pediatricians, worry that deregulating unpasteurized milk in Texas could set a dangerous precedent and lead to more foodborne illnesses. A recent outbreak of Listeria – a bacteria that can be found in soil, water and raw milk – led to a total recall of Blue Bell ice cream. That has done little to calm nerves.
And the Food and Drug Administration warns that unpasteurized milk is "150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products."
Currently, the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk is legal in at least 30 states, including Texas, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization has joined other medical associations in calling for a ban on the sale of those milk products.
The bill will get a final vote in the lower chamber on Friday.