Nilsestuen appoints panel to consider raw milk issue
Wisconsin’s Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Rod Nilsestuen announced that he is convening a raw milk working group to consider legal and regulatory perspectives pertaining to the sale of unpasteurized milk directly to consumers, and consider what conditions would be required to protect public health.

“In recent months, raw milk sales have been an increasingly contentious issue in Wisconsin and other states. There is a clear demand among some consumers and a clear desire on the part of some producers to open this market. But we also have a clear duty in the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to protect public health, and the reputation of our vital dairy industry,” Nilsestuen said. “My goal in appointing this group is to recognize the many and varied interests within the milk production, manufacturing, and distribution system.”

Richard Barrows, a widely respected agricultural economist and retired Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will chair the group. The committee also includes: large, mid-size and small dairy farmers, both organic and conventional; large and small cheese makers and dairy processors; dairy veterinarians; consumers; and food safety and public health professionals.

Nilsestuen charged the group with conducting an open-minded review and discussion to decide whether raw milk sales should be allowed in Wisconsin, and if so, under what conditions. The Legislature will be advised of the committee’s recommendation.

The group’s assignment will be to:

  • Review the department’s statutory mission
  • Examine current laws regulating dairy farms, milk and other dairy products, retail food sales, dairy product labeling, and the prohibition on selling raw milk to consumers
  • Examine the current system of enforcing dairy regulations and consider public health needs
  • Evaluate other states’ raw milk regulations
  • Analyze ways that Wisconsin might allow sale of raw milk
  • Recommend policy, program and/or regulatory recommendations related to retail sales of raw milk

“We need farms of all sizes and shapes in Wisconsin. I strongly support opportunities for dairy producers to diversify and increase their income, and I strongly support consumer freedom of choice, but they must be informed consumers, and they must be informed producers,” Nilsestuen said.
Wisconsin law has required since 1957 that milk sold to consumers be pasteurized. Milk must go from farms to licensed dairy plants, and must meet strict quality standards even before pasteurization. Regardless of any action Wisconsin were to take, federal law would prohibit interstate sales of unpasteurized milk.

Pasteurization is a heating process that destroys potentially disease-causing organisms in milk, including E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella. Effects from these bacteria range from nausea and diarrhea to kidney failure, miscarriage and other serious health impacts. -Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection

Consumer groups challenge feds to ban dangerous pesticide found in consumer and personal care products
 The national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch and Beyond Pesticides, a public health and environmental organization, submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency to ask it to ban non-medical uses of the antimicrobial pesticide triclosan. More than 70 organizations signed the petition, which also outlines ways in which triclosan violates numerous environmental statutes, including laws on pesticide registration, clean water, safe drinking water, and the Endangered Species Act.

Originally developed as an anti-bacterial agent for hospital settings, triclosan is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and EPA, and widely used in many consumer and household products ranging from dish soaps and detergents to soaps, toothpastes, deodorants and more.

 “Scientific studies indicate that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “EPA needs to ban its use in non-medical settings and stop allowing companies that market triclosan to exploit consumer fears regarding bacterial-born illnesses. Evidence suggests that triclosan is not effective for many of its intended benefits, and through its presence in an array of products that consumers use every day, may actually be doing more harm than good.”

Chief among triclosan’s health effects is resistance to antibiotic medications and bacterial cleansers, a problem for all people, but especially vulnerable populations such as infants and the elderly. Triclosan is also a known endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase risk for cancer.

Exposure to triclosan is widespread and now found in the urine of 75 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, published by the Centers for Disease Control. Due to the fact that many products containing triclosan are washed down the drain, triclosan shows up in water systems and sewage sludge. Accumulation of the pesticide in waterways and soil has been shown to threaten ecosystems and produce hazardous residues in fish and other marine animals, and potentially contaminate food crops.

“Given its widespread environmental contamination and public health risks, EPA has a responsibility to ban household triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

In July, Food & Water Watch and Beyond Pesticides submitted a similar petition to FDA making the argument that triclosan violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. In January 2010, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) submitted letters to EPA and FDA urging them to reevaluate their oversight of the pesticide. -Food & Water Watch

FDA changes position on BPA, requests further studies
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced a reversal in its position on the health risks of the plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA). In mid-January the FDA declared that in light of recent studies there is “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the development of infants and young children.

While the FDA recognized the plastic additive BPA as a cause for concern, the federal agency stopped short of banning the chemical. The FDA cited substantial uncertainties in the interpretation of the new studies, and therefore, is pursuing further studies and information from other expert agencies. The FDA is also seeking public input.

BPA is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic, which is a rigid, clear plastic used for many consumer products, including reusable water bottles and baby bottles. BPA is also used in epoxy resins, which serve as a protective lining in most food and beverage cans.

The Department of Health and Human Services has published information and tips for parents trying to reduce children’s exposure to BPA. This information can be found at