The demand for raw milk has grown due to consumer interests. Despite testimony about the health risks of drinking raw milk, the general assembly approved the Georgia Raw Dairy Act. The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2023, making Georgia the 31st state to allow raw milk sales.

Under the Raw Dairy Act, Georgia dairy farmers selling raw milk will be required to get a license to show their raw milk products are labeled Grade A for human consumption and follow food safety regulations. The Commissioner of Agriculture will create regulations for maintaining Grade A status of raw milk. “This provides the Commissioner of Agriculture will be in charge of this,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga. “They will inspect the location where raw milk is manufactured, kept, handled, stored or sold. It will be sampled, analyzed and tested.” The bill requires dairy farmers to include a warning label on raw milk packaging: “Warning: This is a raw milk product that is not pasteurized and may increase risk of foodborne illness.”

Georgia Raw Dairy Act also includes unrelated provisions to equipment for tracing synthetic opioids tacked-on in the final days of the legislative session.

Currently, by law, Georgia dairy farmers can sell raw milk for pet consumption, but not human consumption. Feed produced for pet consumption is subject to a much lower level of food safety regulation. However, legislative supporters of the Georgia Raw Dairy Act said people are purchasing raw milk labeled for pet consumption and drinking it themselves, posing health risks for consumers. According to the Food and Drug Administration, raw milk is unsafe for human consumption and no claims of nutritional or health benefits have been proven.

“Risks are particularly high among infants, children, pregnant women, and other immune-compromised individuals who are hospitalized at higher rates when they become sick after being exposed to pathogens like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli,” said Nick Place, dean and director of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Science. Public health experts told legislators that raw milk should not be legalized for human consumption because drinking raw milk is dangerous and provides no proven health benefits.