Role Reversal: MD Legislators Put Public Health Officials on the Hot Seat Over Legalizing Raw Milk

Maryland public health officials (left to right) Laurie Bucher, Katherine Feldman, and Diane Elizabeth Adenay, testify against legislation to allow raw milk herdshares in Maryland.I have been watching legislative and court hearings about raw milk for a number of years now, and the scenario runs something like this: Raw milk proponents parade up to the stand to describe how drinking raw milk helped them resolve chronic illnesses and generally improve their health. Farmers talk about how selling raw milk allows them to get closer to their customers and improve their financial conditions. 


Then the public health officials take the stand, and you can kind of feel the air go out of the room as they testify that raw milk is terribly risky, and causes diseases that kill. Legislators and judges kind of pale and defer to the scientists from on high. 


That was the scenario that seemed to be unfolding in a Maryland House of Representatives hearing room in Annapolis on Tuesday.  Raw milk proponents, including Liz Reitzig, Mark McAfee, and Sally Fallon, among others, had testified forcefully on behalf of legislation that would legalize herdshare arrangements in a state that has steadfastly refused availability of raw milk in any way, shape, or form. (The testimony can be viewed online; the proponents begin at the 29-minute mark, the opponents at the one-hour-45-minute mark.)


After the proponents were done, Katherine Feldman, state public health veterinarian for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, testified that illnesses from raw milk are twice as common in states that allow the sale of raw milk versus those that prohibit it. “Pasteurization is a triumph of public health,” she said. She cited several outbreaks, in Alaska (from last year) and California (from 2006). She referred to a child being sickened after being given milk at a friend’s house. 


Laurie Bucher, chief of the Maryland department’s Center for Milk Control, picked up from Feldman without losing a beat. “No matter how careful the farmer is…. it is impossible to ensure pathogens will be absent from milk.” She pointed to a Pennsylvania study showing “5 to 20% contamination” of raw milk. She said that the Family Cow dairy has had three outbreaks in the last two years, with “huge financial costs to the farm.” She added, yet again, there have been “two deaths and thousands sickened from consuming raw milk products.” 


Diana Elizabeth Adeney, a county public health official and pediatrician, said that in her experience 75-80 per cent of illnesses from raw milk affect children and teens (those under 18 years old). She, like the others, went down the list of organizations that recommend against raw milk—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and so on and so forth. 


But before the air could completely leave the room, a number of legislators began asking tough questions, and raising objections. I couldn’t identify them from the video, but at least half a dozen raised sharp objections to the public health testimony. Here are some examples: 


—“What illnesses could occur from raw and undercooked beef and chicken?” a legislator asked. He wanted to know if these were the same pathogens that can taint raw milk. 


Feldman said the pathogens are the same, but that raw milk sickens more children as a percentage of illnesses than do other foods. 


—“In only eight states is raw milk illegal,” a woman legislator observed. “We’ve had 36 witnesses today. This bill keeps coming back over and over….It is time for you to sit down with all these stakeholders and come up with some kind of plan” to allow raw milk. 


Feldman said, “We are always happy to sit down and discuss these issues….” But you could tell her heart wasn’t in it when she added that “We are looking for scientific evidence….” to support raw milk safety. 


—“Do we have scientific studies on everything before we can eat it?” a legislator followed up. “You said we need clear scientific studies to determine that raw milk is safe.” There was hemming and hawing by the public health people, but no clear response. 


—The same legislator observed: “We are talking about a 13-year period, two deaths in a 13-year period…In the grand scheme of things….two people in 13 years is not significant….When I look at this data, there is nothing here.” Feldman hemmed and hawed some more. “Death is not the outcome we are talking about.” (I could have sworn she and others referred a number of times to the danger of dying from raw milk.)


—Another legislator questioned the public health people about their assertion of many raw milk illnesses in neighboring Pennsylvania. “You said there were hundreds of illnesses in Pennsylvania….between 2005 and 2013 there were 17 outbreaks from salmonella, not hundreds….I am wondering where you got hundreds.”  Feldman responded, “I’m sorry….17 is a lot.” 


I took several messages from the sharp questioning coming from the legislators. 

1.The politicians are beginning to become informed about this issue. They aren’t blindly accepting the assertions from on high by the “scientists” as gospel. This is almost certainly occurring because they are hearing from their constituents that raw milk and food rights is something increasing numbers of people care deeply about. 

2. The public health people are going to have to clean up their act. They are going to have to do less fear mongering and more serious interpretation of their data. (Though that does present a problem, since the data, when annualized and otherwise made more understandable, become much more benign.) They may even, imagine this, have to sit down face to face and have serious discussions with ordinary people who are demanding access to a particular food, as in Maryland. 

3. Finally, we saw first-hand the need to bring up the same legislation repeatedly, even if it is defeated on initial go-rounds. A couple of Maryland legislators were clearly frustrated as they asked the obvious question: Why is this legislation continually being proposed, with lots of public support, and then defeated, on a regular basis?

I still wouldn’t bet on the Maryland proposal for herdshares being passed and signed into law. There are huge obstacles in its path, including committee chair people and a governor who don't want to endanger campaign contributions from Big Ag and assorted health and medical organizations. But we heard for one of the first times some serious questioning of whether the emperor is wearing clothes.  Crying wolf inevitably wears thin. 

For more information about the Maryland hearing, take a look at activist Liz Reitzig's report. She's been leading the effort to make raw milk available in Maryland for some years now, and helped organize proponents for the Tuesday hearing. 

Deborah - Pacifica's picture

Speaking of legislation & the health department...finally a positive break-through for those of us living in California!!! Read about it here:

With all of the fear mongering that has been done by the public health officials for so long I'm in doubt that they can actually still seriously interpret any data without their special addition of percentages and numbers for their advantage.

rawmilkmike's picture

Mark, first off, the safety of raw milk is irrelevant, if consumers want it.
Second, there is no reason to listen to testimony from raw milk's competitors. Remember we drink raw milk for our health not for it's taste.
Third, if pathogens were unavoidable and inherent, as they say, then a minimum infectious dose would have to be established for certain types of raw milk sales.
Fourth, raw milk has already been proven a low risk food.
“Raw milk myths and evidence by Nadine Ijaz pdf”
Fifth, when the state makes any false accusations, on the record, like “there have been two deaths and thousands sickened from consuming raw milk products” they then have unclean hands.

rawmilkmike's picture

If there really were pathogens in raw milk, giving it to children would be much safer then vaccination and you would do it for the same reason.

Also diarrhea is normal for children, especially for children in school or daycare. And 60% of adults are lactose intolerant which means pasteurized milk gives them diarrhea.

rawmilkmike's picture

No, we need scientific evidence that raw milk is unsafe and has no nutritional advantage.

Also they would need to disprove all the evidence against pasteurized milk.

“Do we have scientific studies on everything before we can eat it?” great question. Write that one down.

The risk of infection and death from medical mistakes associated with spending a night in the hospital is much greater than driving or eating raw oysters.

“You said there were hundreds of illnesses in Pennsylvania….between 2005 and 2013 there were 17 outbreaks from salmonella, not hundreds….I am wondering where you got hundreds.”  Feldman responded, “I’m sorry….17 is a lot.”  UNCLEAN HANDS!!!

Is Maryland's raw milk bill any better than the Wisconsin bill?

mark mcafee's picture


Very good coverage of this very historic event. I testified many years ago on raw milk in Maryland so this was my second time back to the legislative trough. In summary....the Maryland State Health Department and their affiliates ie...FDA sponsored speakers, "have cried wolf too many times and now their very own legislature does not believe them". This was clear in the tone and tenure of the comments and questions of them. One of the members of the committee brought up the FTCLDF US map of American raw milk and demanded the right answers based on facts not blown up exagerations and gross assumptions.

Yes...this is the exactly proper use of this parable. Almost every year in the last 10 years of legislative sessions there has been some kind of raw milk bill in Maryland. One bill included intensive oversight with testing etc...other bills "a hands off approach" much like HB3 which is a cow share bill. All of the bills met the same fate. They all died in committee. From what I undertstand the chairman assured that none of the bills ever even had the opportunity to be voted upon!! Now we have votes...but it is still a very real concern that the chairman will refuse to allow a vote!!

Now isn't that demoncratic!!

I did hear something very hopeful on this round of arguments. The committee members had heard this anti-raw milk wolf howling before...and they realized that the data and the arguments made were actually FDA canned comments and were even false and untrue. The committee members called the speakers on their comments and laid it all out in the open.

Lies can only work for so long. Quoting cherry picked CDC data and not mentioning the 77 pasteurized deaths and 430,000 pasteurized illnesses since 1972 hit a real speed bump this time arround...

Each of us were limited to 3 minutes to speak and then we were cut off. None of the speakers against raw milk were cut off. I got really of the committee members asked me a question ( I was on a panel of speakers ) and let me run with the answers for at least 5 minutes and the followed with more questions. I was able to tell the thriving CA raw milk story and speak of the real CDC starting from 1972 instead of cherry picked data.

Maryland is "FDA back yard territory". I am not surprised by this at all. I was able to steal a few minutes of very quality time with Lori Booker ( she and I are both in Farmagedon we are great friends...LOL ), she is the Maryland dairy regulator that works had to suppress raw milk. She and I spoke of the potential for a working group to vet the issues and lay the relative food safety risk issue to rest. She is a very kind person to begin with, but she was sincerely interested in looking at a model that she could work with. I expressed to her my dedication to helping any way that I can.

If this is butt kissing...then I am a butt kisser. But this is the language spoken by regulators and with this kind of dialogue they see us as grounded, smart and very dedicated to food safety and progress. So many of the FDA types classify all of us raw milk people as fringe crazies.

That time has come to an end and we must come forward with our best and be taken very seriously and I think that everyone in that room takes us very seriously. There will be progress....not sure on which pathway be it Cow Shares or some other path...there will be progresss.

Great work Liz!! I am darn proud of you!

Ora Moose's picture

I will second Mark's comment regarding Liz, that is outstanding lucid commentary! Any non-bought thinking person can certainly read between the lines as to the ulterior motives, they are clear as blue skies and self evident. Udderly Absurdities, I saw them back up the Abhorrent Inlaws in my college dorm.

Just don't go jumping off a tenth story building, have a nice glass of raw milk instead.

rawmilkmike's picture

You can almost see these people in their powdered wigs.

last year in Canada, 8000 people died after contracting Methycylin-resistant Staph. Aureous IN HOSPITALS. Meanwhile, immune milk has been proven to work in over 4000 peer-reviewed studies, since 1949. People are suffering while the very anti-dote is staring us in the face, and those who proffer a way to improve the natural immunity of the individual as well as "the herd" ( the community) are sent to gaol. "There is nothing new under the sun ... wrong is put in place of right ; that which is right is called wrong, and the one who calleth for Justice, maketh himself a prey"
How to break in to that circular argument? Well, one of the classic devices, is : humor. Congratulations David Gumpert on your creativity with the skit! The commies have absolutely NO sense of ha-ha

rawmilkmike's picture

In listening to this hearing I find that the discussion of mandatory vaccine reporting for healthcare providers just as scary as the anti-food and vitamin discussion.

As far as the fresh milk discussion, I must say that the first speaker was perfect and the others I listen to were very good also. But hears the kicker; without even knowing anything about this particular bill I can tell you with almost complete certainty that it will only make raw milk more difficult to obtain in Maryland.

Raw milk is not illegal in the US. Think about it. If it were, why wasn't Vernon Hershberger charged with selling raw milk? The state is the one trying to circumvent the law. The state's prohibition of raw milk is De facto regulation. Not only does the state lie when it infers raw milk is inherently dangerous it also lies when it infers it's illegal.

It bothers me to hear someone suggest that people would drive 125 miles for the taste of raw milk or to buy locally. It may sometimes taste better but not that much better.

rawmilkmike's picture

OK, maybe it's not a lie. What do you call it then? Disingenuous, or evasive maybe.

D. Smith's picture

@ rawmilkmike: You said "raw milk is not illegal in the US. Think about it. If it were, why wasn't Vernon Hershberger charged with selling raw milk?"

Every State has different "legal" borders for raw milk. There is a graph/chart over at the FTCLDF home page showing which States have what laws.

It shows ND as being herd-share legal, but as far as I know it's still only sold there as pet food. It may be that this has changed recently and I just didn't pay attention. Imagine that! Also, it shows SD as being raw milk legal - sure, it's legal - if you can find it. Since the fiasco last year with Black Hills Milk, NO ONE IN THIS AREA wants to come out from under the barn, so to speak. This makes access difficult if not impossible. So it can be classified as legal, but when the State scares the beejeebies out of farmers, the consumers lose, as well. When idiotic State workers claim they'd rather drink gasoline than raw milk, well, that's just fodder for the uneducated, who then are not even going to look for raw milk because they think it's dangerous. As I've said before, SD can just go ahead now and make raw milk illegal here because it's so difficult to find. They've accomplished what they set out to do. I have a list right in my desk drawer of about 78 people who are looking for raw milk and cannot find it. The closest thing we have is some pasteurized homogenized stuff that is brought here from Nebraska in glass jars - people think it's raw milk simply because it's in a glass jar. But visiting their web site tells the story. Heck, I can buy pasteurized homogenized vegetarian fed (another term people misinterpret) milk from the grocery store and I don't have to pay a deposit on the bottles. It's a rip-off, plain and simple.

Yes, the SD Dairy and Egg Board did their jobs all right.

EdDavis's picture

The expansion of raw milk access in New Zealand via dispensers on the farm may be an opportunity to scientifically refute some of the arguments of the US regulators. It could offer before and after data.

D. Smith's picture

@ EdDavis: A very logical and sound idea. Maybe David could pass this idea on to someone with enough clout to make it a viable alternative argument. Good tip.

Ora Moose's picture

There are pigs, and then there are PIGS with guns. You decide which invasive species should be spared. Conventional Pork Industry, I saw them back up Saw Dust with Ministry in the 70s.

demoncratic!! Mark, I think you just coined a new word, very appropriate.

Ora Moose's picture

Which reminds me I also saw at a summer festival The Fridge Crazies backing up the Evasive Maybe and Canned Comments, Butt Kisser featuring Smoke, Powered Wigs and with Hears The Kicker as a headliner, not that our heads needed any further lining.

Ken Conrad's picture

Is this the sequel to “Animal Farm”?

Ora Moose's picture

Could be Ken, are you saying I should write a book? I prefer short snippets but we could compile.

Liz Reitzig's picture

As always, David, thank you for the great coverage of events! Mark, thanks for attending the hearing and speaking to the normalcy of raw milk being available in states like CA.

We still have much work to do here in Maryland within the legal/regulatory framework so that our peaceful farmers are no longer criminalized for the peaceful action of providing wholesome, wonderful foods to their communities. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of out-of-state raw milk available here and the access grows every day.

A "working" group with the maryland department of health and mental hygiene would be nothing short of a stalling tactic, Mark, and to pretend otherwise is a disservice to all the farmers in Maryland who get threatened and shut down--by the health department workers like Laurie Bucher--for sharing a gallon of milk with their neighbors. Having cow shares reinstated, while a positive step, is still a tiny step in the right direction. Decriminalizing our farmers in this one minute capacity is the goal, not false appeasement from the DHMH.

Much appreciation and gratitude to everyone who has supported this effort in the past and this year!

mark mcafee's picture

I am moved by a link to Mr. Bakers Pork Pebelliun. It appears that the regulators are hanging a label on him as dangerous and gun weilding so they can be more dangerous and really bring in the big guns ( the old police escalation of force based on threat assessment ).

Be ware of this much as any one of us would love to let our frustrations out and start shooting back in defense of the damn truth and our not do it. They will put you into a body bag!!

Why not shoot back??? Well in this age of terrorism and government brain washed 3rd grade idiots with badges and big ass does not work. They will just keep on coming and shooting.

What they do not have is the trust of the consumer or the backing of the people. So...that means an entirely different kind of shooting back.

It means that when faced with a threat of armed raids...use the media. Create a situation where your truth is exposed in the face of huge armed threats. The media loves this kind of stuff.

If Mr. Baker must go meet with the local sherriff and build that relationship. He must share his complete concern for his families physical safety. Make and create news!!! Big news!!

Then get the media to try and interview the other side about the news! Pictures of dead bay pigs slaughtered at the order of the armed agents is huge. This is our greatest tool. The public hates this kind of stuff.

It is our challenge to "create news on our terms". Not theirs!! We can not ever let the armed agents get the news to tell their story and label us as dangerous terrorists.

The win is sweet when they bring the guns and we bring the truth and they can not use their redicuous and abusive tools but we can use ours. That is the kind of strategic battle we must fight, even thought any good ex-military, father and patriotic man would love to just shoot does not work! Fight the the media and a hold a press the pictures. Get the fascists in some serious trouble. Expose the bigots.

D. Smith's picture

Nowadays the thugs tend to shoot first and NEVER ask questions. They also aren't often held accountable for their actions.

Passive resistance (read: mass refusal) SHOULD be what it takes to dismantle something unwanted by the people in general, but it isn't enough to know your enemy anymore because the chameleon enemy is hard to spot. Another scheme that has worked for our lawless gubment.

And the media is reluctant to do anything but hide behind their clipboards. What they report most of the time isn't news, it's gossip, which is why I call newspapers "rags". And the rolling media isn't much better.

I don't know the answer to our current challenges with the court system and the laws. You're right though, it's a temptation to fight back with pictures, but the media isn't the answer unless you can find a truth-telling media outlet. Neither the NYT nor the InfoWars type stuff will ever work in our favor. One is too traditional, the other too radical. Again, I don't know the answer, but footage of people holding a rally doesn't seem to go far in convincing anyone of anything. Facts certainly don't stand a chance, as we've seen. What should we do to create our own terms?

mark mcafee's picture


Food safety is totally are 99% wrong on this issue. Raw milk access loses when they get to show news reports of sick kids with the culprit being raw milk...we lose big time. Freedom adn rights is a great and worthy fight..but it is the sign & symptom of really pissed off "radicallized consumers" that are infuriated with continued denial of access to raw milk for their families, when other Americans can readily access clean safe raw milk.

Food safety is a battle ground. It is their battle ground. We can not fight our battle because they have the guns and most of the conventional power. We can fight if we use their terms of war....that means no sick raw milk consumers ever!! Only healthy ones. We win when they have no examples to show for the badge of righteousness.

When we teach...when we build strong thriving markets we win. Ultimately....the internet settles it all. The truth is a dollar vote. Time will retire this generation of old-Unchangeble paid off nearly brain dead FDA CAFO loving, PMO loosers. Lets make it our challenge to educate and feed the next generation of thinking, smart FDA employees with raw milk. The next generatio of FDA will have actually reviewed the findings of the NIH human biome project. They will recognize the EU studies and be thinking differently!

Shelly-D.'s picture

The fight continues in a Toronto court room next week.

Shawna Barr's picture

"Mark, first off, the safety of raw milk is irrelevant, if consumers want it."

Wrong. This may be true in a legal sense, but not in a practical sense.
Safety is very relevant to our milk consumers. It is very relevant to me. Free-of pathogens is one part of our broad and holistic definition of safety.

Ora Moose's picture

Wow nice new pic Shawna you and the babe are just beautiful barr none

Shawna Barr's picture

Thanks is now a toddler but still likes to squeeze herself into the backpack...oof, what a workout. :)

rawmilkmike's picture

Shawna, I agree, gorgeous picture.
So as far as the relevance of raw milk safety; We are talking about “legislation that would legalize herd-shares”. So the law is what I was referring to.
Now in a “broad and holistic” view; “Safety” is “relevant” when “you” are talking to new raw “milk consumers” and if an inspector comes around it is important that your farm is “Free-of pathogens”. - But, just for your own peace of mind - The average American gets diarrhea 3 times a year, so any customer drinking your raw milk for at least 4 month without getting diarrhea knows your milk is at least average. Once they drink your milk for a year without getting diarrhea, whether they know it or not, they have just proven that your raw milk prevents the very illness it is said to cause. At that point raw milk safety becomes irrelevant, wouldn't you say?
Haven't you seen this;
“Raw milk myths and evidence by Nadine Ijaz pdf”

Ora Moose's picture

"mental hygiene" I saw them with broccoli dip and ideal world. what a great show that was right up there with the turnips featuring the beets. But enough about obscure music, let's get on about real milk.

Ken Conrad's picture

Regulatory intrusion in the apiary industry is second to none. The regulators narrow focus on eradicating disease and pests via the use of antibiotics and mass eradication (their “terms of war”) has weakened overall immunity within bee colonies and has caused a great deal of grief among apiarists.

As well the persistent use of government-regulated protocols that sanction toxic chemicals, drugs and novel technologies (GMO’s) in the honeybee’s overall environment adds to the dilemma.

With respect to the documentary “Queen of the Sun the following article states, (I’ve added microbes in parenthesis for a little perspective), “it explores the ancient relationship between man and bees (microbes)—a relationship that, historically, was considered nothing less than sacred. Returning to life in balance with nature is the ultimate solution, and when it comes to bees (microbes), it's something we'll have to do lest we risk perishing right along with them”.

What ever happened to Beelogics gene silencing vaccine that was developed in 2008 to supposedly combat colony collapse disorder?

Nature is biting back, and what’s happening to bee populations is a reflection of a growing systemic problem within society. Just like raw milk bees did just fine until humans arrogantly started tampering with their internal and external environments using vaccines, drugs, chemical, GMO’s and mass killings all in the name of greater productivity and the regulators so-called germ focused perception of good health.

“Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. ” Chief Seattle