LITTLE ROCK — A bill to allow unpasteurized milk to be sold in Arkansas cleared a House panel Friday.
On a 12-5 vote, House Bill 1536 by Rep. Randy Alexander, R-Fayetteville, received a "do pass" recommendation from the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee. The same committee had rejected the bill last month.
Under the bill, Arkansas milk producers whose average monthly sales of unpasteurized milk do not exceed 500 gallons would be allowed to sell the milk in the state.
The bill originally called for the state Health Department to establish rules for inspecting facilities where unpasteurized milk is produced, but Alexander amended the bill to delete that language after committee members objected to the vagueness of the directive.
Alexander said Friday the bill no longer requires any inspections.
"It’s a buyer beware kind of thing," he said after the hearing.
The Health Department continues to oppose the bill, which it says could expose consumers to dangerous pathogens.
Alexander said he talked to committee members after the bill failed in March, and he said the members likely heard from constituents as well.
"I have gotten more calls and emails and letters on this issue than any other issue in the session," he said. "To me it’s a freedom issue. It’s harder to imagine a more natural product than milk, and if a farmer wants to sell it and an adult wants to buy it, I really don’t think it’s the government’s business."
The bill goes to the House.