Those who love raw milk should not expect the Obama Administration to make acquiring it any easier. The White House has responded to a petition signed by more than 6,000 people posted on the "We The People" petition page, asking the Administration to "legalize raw milk on a federal level," and allow the "sale and distribution of raw milk products across all states." Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, responded, indicating that the Administration will do no such thing, citing "well documented" health risks from drinking unpasteurized milk, especially for young children.
"We appreciate consumer concerns on food issues and understand the importance of letting consumers make their own food choices," McKalip wrote. But all the same, "this administration believes that food safety policy should be based on science."
Current statutes allow states to determine the legality of raw milk sales, but the Food and Drug Administration bans interstate sales of unpasteurized milk, the sale of raw milk across state lines. Raw milk advocates, who claim almost magical healing properties from drinking unpasteurized milk, have been battling for years to change this. McKalip noted that "20 states explicitly prohibit the intrastate sale of raw milk in some form and 30 allow it."
"While the nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear," McKalip wrote, adding that this is an opinion shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Unpasteurized milk can be contaminated with a variety of deadly pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria. According to the CDC, between 1987-September 2010, raw milk was linked to 2,659 cases of illness, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages, from a variety of pathogens.
McKalip linked to this FDA page, which cites scientific studies that debunk raw milk advocates' claims that it cures lactose intolerance, cures or treat allergies or asthma, and is effective for treating osteoporosis and combating aging. The FDA page also notes studies that find there is no immune system boost for growing children from raw milk consumption, and ephasizes that it is especially unsafe for young children.
"In this case, we support pasteurization to protect the safety of the milk supply because the health risks associated with raw milk are well documented," McKalip wrote.
In September of 2011, the White House still had a floor of 5,000 signatures to get a response to petitions posted on WhiteHouse.gov, and the raw milk petition had 6,078 signatures. Thanks to an influx of petitions, in October of 2011 the White House changed the floor to 25,000 signatures acquired within 30 days in order to receive a response. The White House has responded to 34 petitions since launching the site.
*Read the full raw milk petition and the full response here.
*McKalip is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council, which as of today will be led by Cecilia Muñoz.
*AP photo of the President watching the dairy cow judging during a stop at the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill., on Aug. 17, 2011.