“Humboldt County in northern California has long been known as a mellow place, thanks in large measure to all the marijuana that’s grown there, legally and illegally.
But while Humboldt County may be the marijuana capital of America, it has no intention of becoming a mecca for another controversial natural product: raw milk.
Indeed, Humboldt County is having a very difficult time deciding whether to even allow the sale of unpasteurized milk, though decision time is rapidly approaching. On Tuesday evening, Jan. 11, the county’s Board of Supervisors is due to take up the issue — and it’s not at all clear what it will do.
California has the most permissive laws in the country with regard to distribution of raw milk — allowing not only raw milk, but other raw dairy products like butter, kefir, and cream to be sold via retail — but Humboldt County has long held to a local ban on raw milk sales. (About 20 states in the country also forbid it.)
The county’s ban is being challenged by the state’s largest raw milk producer, Organic Pastures Dairy Co., and its founder, Mark McAfee. Since Organic Pastures is prohibited from selling across state lines, it would like to expand the fast-growing California raw dairy market into Humboldt County.
McAfee made his pitch at a Board of Supervisors meeting last August, providing an array of articles and research suggesting that raw milk confers important health benefits on consumers. The five-member board decided to throw the hot potato into the lap of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, asking it to study the matter and report back. Late last week, it issued its report [PDF], and while it makes no specific recommendations, the weight of its documentation is nearly completely negative for raw milk.
That’s because the Humboldt County public health reps sought input primarily from government agencies — which have long demonized raw milk as a public health menace. The FDA’s statement to the county says that it “continues to state that raw milk is inherently dangerous and should not be consumed directly … The FDA strongly encourages Humboldt County to continue to protect public health by prohibiting the production and sale of unpasteurized milk.”…”