Advocates renew push for legalizing raw milk in Hawaii
WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One day after the state health department ordered Meadow Gold Dairies to discontinue its distribution of 2% milk due to high levels of the bacteria, Hawaii locavores are pushing for more options, including the sale of raw milk.
Currently, raw milk is legal in 42 states in some form or another.
Hawaii law prohibits the sale of it, but advocates like Monique Vanderstroom, owner of Naked Cow Dairy Farm in Waianae, say it's long over due.
"There's enough people here that want it," she said. "Anytime we can produce our own food here, I think it adds to the sustainability of the islands as a whole."
Vanderstroom said when she first opened her farm in 2008, she wanted to sell milk.
But with all the rules and permitting required to bottle milk, the small farmer couldn't compete with mainland production, so her inventory only consists of cheese and butter.
"We can't really afford the costs of the regulations right now," Vanderstroom said.
Naked Cow is one of three dairy farms in Hawaii and the only one on Oahu.
It's operation is small - with only 14 cows - but Vanderstroom wants to expand the business by adding to her herd and starting the sale of raw milk.
Raw milk comes straight from the cow, unprocessed and untreated.
Supporters say it's more nutritious than the pasteurized milk you purchase from your local grocery store.
Claudine Castillo, who's visiting Hawaii from California, has consumed raw milk since childhood.
"I like the taste," Castillo said. "My grandfather had a farm out in Mexico and we would just go out straight to the cow and get our fresh milk for breakfast."
The push to legalize raw milk in Hawaii started in 2013, but proposed legislation continually face stiff opposition from the state health department.
"The risk is so high it outweighs any purported benefit which has not been proven," said Peter Oshiro, program manager of the DOH Sanitation Branch.
Vanderstroom does agree, there are dangers with consuming raw milk, if you don't know its source.
The CDC says it can carry bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria that can lead to foodborne illnesses.
"I don't advocate for raw milk from large dairies because I've been there, so I know there are health risks and health hazards," said Vanderstroom.
In a state where almost 90% of milk is imported from the mainland, advocates for raw milk believe making it legal will meet the demands of providing locally sourced food and allow island dairies to prosper once again.
"There should be more options for consumers to be able to go directly to the farm to purchase your milk," said Kellen Smith, co-chair of the Agriculture and Intergovernmental Affair of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board.
"I'm hoping something can pass so people could have what they want," said Vanderstroom.
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