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Governor Bars Most Raw Milk Sales in Wisconsin

If you're looking to buy raw milk, don't rely on "America's Dairyland."

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed limited sales of raw milk, saying he wanted to protect citizens' health. He also was concerned about how a possible outbreak of illnesses from drinking unpasteurized milk could affect Wisconsin's $26 billion dairy industry.

"I recognize that there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter, but on balance, I must side with the interests of public health and the safety of the dairy industry," Doyle said in his veto letter to lawmakers.

Bill supporters argued that pasteurization, which kills harmful bacteria and extends shelf life, depletes milk of beneficial nutrients. But opponents - including the dairy industry - said the threat of E. coli or salmonella should take precedent.

Wisconsin allows incidental sales of raw milk, but dairy farmers who supported the bill said the state was cracking down on anyone who sold to regular customers or more than a few occasional gallons.

The federal government doesn't allow sales of raw milk because of concerns about food-borne illness, but states can allow them as long as the milk doesn't cross state lines. Nineteen states allow direct sales of raw milk from dairy farmers to individuals, while nine other states permit retail sales.

Between 1998 and 2008, there were 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths from consumption of raw milk, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Doyle said in April that he was leaning toward signing the bill, but he was heavily lobbied in recent weeks by Wisconsin's dairy and cheese industries, the Wisconsin Medical Society, farm and health groups, and a host of other businesses. The National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association joined the chorus last week.