Wisconsin Milk Case a Raw Deal

By Nichols, Mike | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), May 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Wisconsin Milk Case a Raw Deal


Nichols, Mike, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


Raw milk is not cocaine or heroin or pot. It's not illegal to acquire it in Wisconsin, says Joe Plasterer, of Madison, who freely admits to purchasing it for his family.

But it is illegal for farmers to sell it - which is why Plasterer's supplier, Vernon Hershberger, is about to be put on trial in Sauk County Circuit Court.

Hershberger faces up to a year in jail and all sort of fines for, technically, failing to acquire licenses to produce milk, operate a dairy plant and run a retail eatery. Of course, you can't get a license to do what Hershberger wants to do: sell raw milk to individuals.

Plasterer and his wife, Melinda Starkweather, started buying raw milk years ago when they noticed their son wasn't thriving the way he should have been.

They think it's "absolutely absurd" that Hershberger is being prosecuted for selling them something they thoroughly researched, have given to their kids for years and, frankly, could easily acquire elsewhere.

They are convinced it's the best thing for their family and are well able to weigh the benefits against any potential risks.

There are some, according to no less an authority than the Raw Milk Policy Working Group appointed in 2010 by Rod Nilsestuen, then secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Approximately 25 percent of all foodborne outbreaks of disease in humans before 1938 were associated with unpasteurized milk or dairy products, according to the group's report, and it is possible that consumers of raw milk who get sick can shed bacteria and spread the infection to others.

The same report notes, though, that better sanitation practices on farms and the use of temperature controls to keep milk cool help reduce some of the risks.

There are ways to make sure farmers aren't milking sick cows and running bacteria mills.

Plasterer says, personally, he wouldn't mind seeing farmers sell raw milk at their roadside stands the same way they sell fresh tomatoes. …

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