Author: Cole Sullivan
Published: 6:13 PM EST January 21, 2019
Updated: 3:30 PM EST February 17, 2019
MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — It caught our eye as one of the more unusually-worded bills filed so far this year.
SB15 would ban people who only own a partial share of a hoofed animal from drinking its milk.
And while that may seem wordy, it’s causing a controversy that the bill sponsor says is like “kicking a hornets nest.”
At the controversy's core: a debate over the rights and health risks of drinking raw milk.
"There's myths. I like to call them myths about raw milk that somehow it's a lot healthier than pasteurized milk," State Senator Richard Briggs (R - Knox County) who introduced the bill said.
Briggs--who is also a medical doctor--filed the bill after 10 kids in Knox County got sick from E. coli after drinking raw milk in June.
“Right here in our own home county, we’ve had very serious illnesses among children that are life threatening and we could have lost all those kids,” Briggs said.
He says the current law, which allows people to buy a share of a cow in order to legally drink its milk, is a loophole that needs closing.
But the farmers who raise and milk the cows say the senator’s proposal interferes with their rights.
"I think it's a it's a liberty issue," Suzanne Thomspon, a dairy farmer in Madisonville, said. "If people want to drink raw milk from their cow than that's what they should be able to do."
She says she thinks raw milk is healthier than the stuff you buy at the store and that this bill could ruin her family farm.
"This farm is my life," she said, with tears in her eyes. "I've worked very hard to put it together and I love it. And I put together for my daughter to be able to carry on and it's in jeopardy right now."
The CDC says raw milk can pose severe health risks, from diarrhea, to kidney failure, to even death.
But Thompson says all food comes with risks.
"There was a huge romaine lettuce recall in 2018. No one is suggesting we pasteurize lettuce," she said.
Briggs says he doesn't want to stop people from drinking milk from their own cows, but says the herd-share program is too dangerous when it comes to giving raw milk to kids.
“If you do believe in the raw milk--and I respect that right to believe in that,” he said. “Please don’t give it to your children.”