Updated Jun 10, 2024 - Politics

As conservative media pushes raw milk, Louisiana set to legalize its sale

Illustration of a dairy cow with an exclamation point pattern on it's nose

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Louisiana lawmakers approved a bill to remove the state's total ban on raw milk sales, joining the majority of the country where the product is already available, if and when Gov. Jeff Landry signs the legislation.

Why it matters: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that consuming raw milk comes with big health risks, and that concern is growing as avian flu infects America's dairy cows.

The big picture: Commentators for conservative media like The Blaze, QAnon, Infowars and Gab have been sharing what they describe as the benefits of raw milk, according to an analysis from left-leaning Media Matters.

  • The Blaze, for example, published what it called an investigation on "the truth about raw milk the government doesn't want you to know," calling raw milk "close to a perfect food" in its headline.
  • The Media Matters analysis found more than 13,000 TikTok posts with the hashtag #rawmilk, and the top 581 videos had amassed over 231 million views by May 3.

Reality check: Nearly all store-bought milk is pasteurized, a process that kills the bacteria that can lead to harmful diseases and illnesses like listeria, typhoid fever, tuberculosis and diphtheria, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Zoom in: Until lawmakers passed Rep. Kimberly Coates' (R-Ponchatoula) HB467 during the last regular legislative session, Louisiana was one of a small handful of states with a full ban on raw milk sales, according to a website that tracks its availability for those hoping to purchase it.

  • As it worked its way through the legislature, the bill merited hours of public comment, much of which emphasized talking points heard on conservative media.
  • When the bill received overwhelming votes to pass the state House on May 31, members were heard mooing in the chambers. The bill was sent to Landry's desk June 4 for his signature.
  • Once law, it'll require raw milk products carry a label that says it isn't for human consumption and warn that it hasn't been pasteurized and "may contain harmful bacteria."

Yes, but: "What you do with it after you get it" is the buyer's business, said state Senate agricultural committee chair Sen. Stewart Cathey Jr., when the bill passed that body May 21.

  • Coates' intentions for the product appeared clear that day as she stated that "many people [are] looking for healthy choices and even be able to use it for their pets."

The latest: A new study released May 24 indicates that consuming raw milk from avian flu-infected cows could pose health risks.

  • In the study, mice who consumed the milk did contract the virus, and it was even present in the mice's milk, Salon reported.
  • Barn cats that lapped up infected milk "suffered horrific symptoms — including blindness, brain swelling and neurological issues — as well as death," the LA Times reported.
  • Although rare, avian flu has been known to infect people.

Threat level: Louisiana's chicken flocks are now the only ones in the country that have avoided avian flu since the current outbreak started, though it has been detected in wild birds.

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