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Hawaii bill to decriminalize raw milk after heavy handed penalties threaten retailers

Hawaii bill to decriminalize raw milk after heavy handed penalties threaten retailers

Pictured: Rep. Mark Nakashima (D – District 1)

$10,000/day fines for raw milk retailers

Two years ago, it was discovered that pet stores in O‘ahu were selling raw milk from local farmers under a “pet food” label. The Hawaii Department of Health responded by threatening these stores with exorbitant fines and seizure of those goods.

Jul 2nd, 2021, posted on Hawaii.gov: Department of Health Warns Public not to Drink Raw Milk

Pet stores or any other retailer that has raw milk in their possession must remove the product from sale immediately and destroy or return the product to their supplier. Failure to do so may result in seizure and fines of up to $10,000 per day.

As of July 1, there were nearly 20 O‘ahu pet stores that were selling the unpasteurized goat milk product.

Here in Washington, as well as in California and Arizona, raw milk sales are legal and retailers are allowed to stock raw milk on their shelves. Raw milk sales are completely outlawed in a few states, like Iowa and Wisconsin.

Some states permit the sale of raw milk as “pet milk,” sometimes formally permitted under a feed license like in Georgia. Because it happens in a few states, the pet food label is seen by some as a general “loophole” or “sneaky move” that might create space for people to access their local farmer’s raw dairy products without large food processing companies in their way in these outlawed states. This is not always a working option, or universal strategy, as we’ve now seen in Hawaii.

So, in 2021, the “pet food” approach was attempted in Hawaii and failed. Retailers were threatened with $10,000 fines per day if they continued to allow raw milk on their shelves. With loopholes failing, it’s time to legalize raw milk through legislation.

Hawaii’s raw milk crackdowns have created a response to bring in more reasonable laws for raw milk farmers, consumers, and retailers.

Hawaii HB521 – Relating To Raw Milk.

January 23rd, 2023, Rep. Mark Nakashima (D – District 1) introduced Hawaii House Bill 521 to decriminalize raw milk sales and move the state’s Board of Agriculture and Department of Health to adopt rules allowing raw milk sales before July 2024.

Summary:

Authorizes and decriminalizes the sale of raw milk and raw milk products directly from producers to consumers, for human consumption, with certain restrictions. Authorizes the sale of raw goat milk for pet consumption. Establishes labeling requirements. Requires the Board of Agriculture and Department of Health to adopt rules no later than 7/1/2024.

From the HB521 bill text:

§157-     Raw milk and raw milk products; direct sales.  (a)  Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, a producer may sell raw milk and raw milk products directly to consumers for human consumption, subject to rules adopted by the board pursuant to subsection (b); provided that the farm or facility from which the raw milk or raw milk product originated shall own or house no more than ten milk-bearing cows.

(b)  No later than July 1, 2024, the board shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 governing the direct sale to consumers of raw milk and raw milk products for human consumption.  The rules shall:

(1)  Include conditions similar to those found in the administrative rules of other states that allow the sale of raw milk and raw milk products;

(2)  Establish standards to ensure that raw milk and raw milk products are not contaminated during production or sale; and

(3)  Regulate any circumstances under which producers may share cows for the purposes of producing raw milk or raw milk products.

(c)  Each container of raw milk or raw milk product intended for sale shall include on the container or packaging:

(1)  A label reading “RAW MILK”, “RAW MILK PRODUCT”, or “CONTAINS RAW MILK PRODUCTS”, as applicable; and

(2)  A statement reading “Contains pathogens that may be unsafe to consume”.”

What’s next

HB521 has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee. The bill relating to raw milk must pass by a majority vote in this committee before moving forward in the legislative process.

Tell your friends on Volcano Island there’s hope for raw milk in HB521.

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