- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A bill to allow non-farmers to own a cow or stake in a cow for the purpose of consuming the animal’s unpasteurized milk was approved by a House agricultural committee on Wednesday.

The sale of unpasteurized milk is illegal in West Virginia, although family farms may privately consume the milk raw. Drinking raw milk from a cow co-op or from a shared herd, in which a cow or herd has multiple owners, is also illegal. The bill approved by the West Virginia House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources would allow such owners a right to consume the milk unpasteurized.

Del. Carol Miller, R-Cabell, asked if anyone in West Virginia has become sick from drinking raw milk in the past five years. Brad Cochran, director of public health sanitation, said six individuals who reside in West Virginia became sick in 2012 after purchasing raw milk in Pennsylvania, where the sale is legal.

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, asked Ann Goldberg of the Bureau of Public Health if she saw a time in the future when herd-sharing for the purpose of receiving raw milk might be approved.

“There is no new evidence to show that raw milk is safe for public health,” Goldberg responded.

House Bill 4273 would authorize the Department of Agriculture’s commissioner to impose regulatory standards on how the cows are cared for and the milk harvested.

Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, said the bill enables several individuals or families to own shares in the same cow or a dairy herd.

The bill was referred to the House Committee Health and Human Resources.

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