As of Jan. 1, 2008, all milk sold raw to consumers in California must meet new state standards for coliform bacteria -- no more than 10 per milliliter. That's the same standard as for pasteurized milk.
A general indicator of sanitary milk production methods, at elevated levels these bacteria can cause serious illness in young children, the elderly or others with weakened immune systems. Pasteurization easily kills coliforms, but raw milk isn't pasteurized before it reaches the consumer.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture says that by following proven milking and sanitary procedures raw milk producers can meet the bacterial standards.
But raw milk proponents nationwide are in an uproar. Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, the state's largest raw milk producer, calls the legislation a "sneak attack" that will make production of organic raw milk nearly impossible and deny consumers" access to the product.
For more information about the California legislation, go to www.cdfa.ca.gov and click on "News."