A health official investigating an outbreak of a bacterial infection in his region contacted the Network for help to determine the statutory authority of his local government to address the cause of the outbreak. The bacteria responsible for the outbreak is commonly carried in animals such as cattle and goats and can be passed onto humans through several routes, one of which is through the consumption of the raw milk of an animal that carries it. While the official’s state has laws prohibiting the sale of raw milk, some of those affected by the outbreak had been able to get raw milk through a “cow share agreement.” In such agreements, individuals purchase shares of a cow or a herd of cows on a farm and then receive a regular amount of the milk produced by the cow or herd. Participants in cow share agreements argue that because they already own the cow(s), the milk being provided to them is not being sold and therefore the laws that prohibit the sale of raw milk do not apply. The health official was interested in options to limit the distribution of raw milk while still upholding his state’s laws.
The Network researched the issue and identified a case in another state in which the court system upheld the health department’s decision to consider a dairy farmer’s request to offer a cow share as the sale of raw milk and disallowed it. After speaking with the legal counsel to the health department in this state, the Network responded to the requestor with a copy of the court opinion and a case summary to assist in potential policy development. The Network also informed the requestor of the multiple resources on raw milk available on the Network’s Web site.
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