Oregon backs off ban on raw milk advertising
PORTLAND — Oregon regulators have backed off a ban on advertising unpasteurized milk.
The move came when the state Department of Agriculture agreed Thursday to settle a free speech lawsuit brought by a libertarian public interest firm on behalf of McMinnville milk producer Christine Anderson.
The agency agreed not to enforce the ban and to ask the Legislature to repeal it, The Oregonian reported.
“Christine is part of a nationwide movement of small-scale food producers and consumers who are tired of the government dictating what foods they can grow, sell and eat,” said a statement from her lead attorney Michael Bindas.
Anderson said she doesn't plan to advertise beyond a sign in front of her 12-acre property, Cast Iron Farm. She said she has enough customers who buy milk from her at $14 a gallon.
But, she said the settlement allows her to put information on her website, including prices and how the milk is produced, so she doesn't have to spend so much time responding to questions.
Anderson said a state inspector visited her farm in 2012 and told her a raw milk price list on her website constituted advertising, leading to the suit brought by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice.
Vance Bybee, food safety director for the state Department of Agriculture, said the settlement reflects “an effort to be responsive and sensitive to the constitutional issues raised in this issue.” The deal will be reviewed by the Oregon Department of Justice.
Restrictions remain on raw milk production and sales in Oregon. Unpasteurized milk can be sold only on a farm, and producers are allowed to have up to three cows, nine sheep and nine goats.
Raw milk advocates say heating it in pasteurization kills beneficial bacteria. Anderson said she tests her cow's milk monthly for harmful bacteria and acknowledges that raw milk can make people sick. Health officials generally advise against consuming it because of the risk of contamination.
In April 2012, nearly 20 people in the state were sickened by an incident involving unpasteurized milk.
Oregon Public Health officials said it was contaminated with a potentially deadly strain of E. coli. Four children were hospitalized, including three who were put on kidney support. One had to have a kidney transplant.
That outbreak was the sixth in Oregon traced to raw milk since 1996. No one has died.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com