The issue of whether or not to allow dairy farms to sell raw milk drew some heated discussion in Eau Claire Wednesday. Several hundred people showed up to a Senate committee hearing held in the city on a bill that would allow farmers sell unpasteurized milk directly off the farm.

Dairy farmer Dan Sigmund of Rubicon argued it should be a matter of choice for producers and consumers who want to “exercise their right to consumer the health food” of their choice.

Others argued that it’s way for small farmers to get a better price for their milk by selling it at retail by themselves.

Food safety microbiologist Steve Ingham with the state Department of Agriculture says the handling of milk has improved over the years, but there’s still a risk of serious illness. He says there’s no way to guarantee disease-causing bacteria is not still present in the milk.

Farmers can legally make small incidental sales of raw milk now, but not as a regular business practice.

AUDIO: Dan Lea reports (:52)

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