After passing a bill to legalize raw milk, West Virginia lawmakers likely regretted the move when several got sick from drinking it in celebration.
The Department of Health and Human Resources began investigating after several state lawmakers got sick in the weeks since legalizing raw milk. One person reportedly tipped the department off to the alleged illegal distribution of raw milk as a celebratory gesture, which they believe got the lawmakers sick.
On March 3, Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the bill into law, allowing West Virginians to share milk-producing animals and drink raw milk as long as they sign a document admitting the health risks and the animals have passed a health test in the last year, the New York Daily News reports.
One of the people responsible for the bill's passing reportedly brought in raw milk to celebrate. Soon, several who partook became ill. Despite the illness making the rounds at the state capitol, however, many of those who got sick are saying it was just a stomach bug.
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"There's definitely ... some other colleagues that have similar symptoms that I've been experiencing," Republican State Rep. Pat McGeehan told WSAZ.
McGeehan added that Republican State Rep. Scott Cadle, who sponsored the bill, brought him the unpasteurized milk.
"[Cadle] caught me in the hallway, offered a cup to me, and you want to try to be a gentleman," McGeehan said. "I had a small sip and walked away and tossed the rest of it."
"I highly doubt raw milk had anything to do with it, in my case," he added.
Cadle stayed home sick on March 7 due to a stomach virus, the New York Daily News notes.
The Kanwaha-Charleston Health Department said raw milk can contain bacteria and parasites, according to WSAZ. Others argued the opposite, saying that it is more ethical and more nutritious.
"I don't think it's any riskier than eating raw oysters or anything like that," McGeehan said.
"There definitely shouldn't be a law against allowing people to do what they want within the framework of the rule of law," he added. "Just be careful."
According to West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead, many of the legislators who became ill did not drink the raw milk, the New York Daily News reports.
The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC both warn against consumption of raw milk:
Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.
According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.