On May 11, 2023, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law Senate Bill 315. With that stroke of the pen, Iowa went from one of the nation’s 19 states that prohibited the sale of raw milk to one of the 32 that allows the sale of unpasteurized milk.
The bill comes with a heap of restrictions. In its definition of a “Raw Milk Dairy,” the farm is “an operation, owned or operated by a raw milk producer, where not more than 10 dairy animals are maintained to actively produce milk at any one time.”
The new Iowa law allowing the sale of raw milk only permits its sale from the dairy site and the milk can only be distributed to the individual placing the order. In addition, containers holding the raw milk or raw milk dairy products have to include a notice on the label stating the container holds raw milk or raw milk product that is not subject to state inspection or other public health regulations that require pasteurization and grading.
As health officials know full well, this is an important food safety declaration. That’s because unpasteurized milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms including salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, and listeria. Due to this situation, raw milk and the harmful bacteria it potentially contains can be especially dangerous for infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and any individuals with compromised immune systems. It’s the very reason groups such as the Iowa State Dairy Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Public Health Association, and the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association all stood opposed to the bill.
A unique coalition moved the bill forward as it passed the Iowa House on a 64-to-35 vote and the Iowa Senate on a 27-to-13 vote. A key legislator worked for 17 years to secure its passage. In addition, the Americans for Prosperity, a conservative-leaning group, helped organize support for the bill under the concept to allow Iowa residents the freedom of food choice.
On the flip side, Representative Megan Srinivas, a Democrat who is an infectious disease doctor, opposed the bill due to potential illness. “Raw milk increases chances of infection by 150 times — 150 times,” she said in an article by Donnelle Eller in the Des Moines Register.
Representative Bobby Kaufmann, the Republican legislator who worked on the bill for close to two decades, was pleased with its passage. However, in the same article by Eller, he noted that the bill has “one heck of a lot of regulation in it . . .”
Those additional components include:
- Raw milk cannot be sold at farmers markets or in restaurants.
- Raw milk must be stored at 45°F or lower.
- Raw milk must be sold within seven days of harvest.
- Antibiotic treatment withdrawal periods must be followed.
- The raw milk producer shall, every month, test each dairy animal maintained at the raw milk producer’s raw milk dairy to determine the animal’s coliform count and standard plate count.
- Bacteria coliform counts must be under 10 colony forming units per milliliter.
- Standard plate count must be under 25,000 colony units per milliliter.
- Each 12-month period, a licensed veterinarian must examine each dairy animal maintained at the raw milk producer’s raw milk dairy. The examination must at least include a blood test for common disease afflicting the type of dairy animal being examined.
- All test results must be recorded and retained for at least three years.