Raw milk enthusiasts and supporters of Lawton’s Family Farm received a big victory Monday night as proposed regulations for raw milk failed to obtain the approval of the Foxboro Board of Health during a public hearing at the Ahern Middle School.
The approval of the sale of raw milk in Foxboro passed 2-1 and a motion to reject the proposed rules and regulations for the sale and distribution of raw milk in Foxboro was passed 2-1.
In both cases, Eric Arvedon, who proposed the rules and regulations for raw milk, was the dissenting vote.
Despite the lack of regulations from the town, Lawton’s Family Farm, the only producer of raw milk in Norfolk County, will still have to comply with all state regulations.
“The right thing was done this evening. I have a tremendously new outlook on my job. I have a responsibility to live up to the regulations of the state but I also have to live up to the expectations of each and every one of my supporters here tonight and in the past and those that could not be here this evening,” Lawton’s Family Farm owner Edward Lawton said after the meeting.
The regulations proposed were modeled after the regulations used in Framingham and would have required Lawton’s Family Farm to meet certain bacterial and administrative standards.
With most having no issues with the milk having to meet a standard in terms of bacteria, a portion of the regulations that would have required the distributor of raw milk to give the board of health a list of customers that purchased milk from the batch raised concerns from consumers of the product.
“I feel uncomfortable as a customer having that information what I consume in my home given to the Board of Health for no real reason,” resident Loni Ivanovskis said.
Arvedon said that the board did not need the names but just a way to know that the consumers were aware of the high bacteria levels, suggesting that instead of receiving the list of names, a notice could be posted in local publications.
Lawton's Family Farm does warn their customers when the bacteria levels in their raw milk are reading high.
Michael Hugo, the chairman of the Framingham Board of Health and author of his town’s raw milk regulations, said the Foxboro regulations would be manageable if both sides could work together.
Like Foxboro, Framingham has a single distributor of raw milk named Eastleigh Farm.
"Ours (regulations) are more restrictive than yours. What we learned was that people were driving by their old suppliers to get their raw milk and they were going to Eastleigh because it was more regulated and some people were buying from them because their milk was a little cleaner,” Hugo said. “You have to trust the farmer. The farmer does not want to hurt anyone. There has to be a level of trust.”
Eastleigh Farmer owner Doug Stephan also attended in support of the Lawtons, adding that the regulations can work if the farm and the health department have a good relationship, something that Lawton believes does not exist.
“I do not have a problem with the state's bacterial standards. It’s mostly the administrative standards. Doug said we needed a good relationship to make this work. Sorry, this is not going to work. It’s not a good relationship,” Lawton said.
Supporters of raw milk, who made up almost all of those in attendance at the public hearing, also felt there was an unfair attack on raw milk compared to the dangers of consuming other products such as raw fish and meat. Some cited the Center for Disease Control’s statistics that show a low amount of deaths caused by raw milk.
After hearing from the public and with more to speak, Steeves made the motion to allow for the sale of raw milk.
“If you want to drink raw milk, have at it. Far be it from us to regulate it,” Steeves said.
Arvedon did second the motion initially but was not satisfied with the lack of regulations.
“I’m concern that there’s no regulation associated with that. I don’t believe it’s adequate,” Arvedon said.
Steeves also made the motion to not adopt the rules and regulations for the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk.
"I ride a motorcycle, that's dangerous and I enjoy it. You guys enjoy drinking raw milk, so we'll go on from there." board member Paul Mullins said.