Iowa Law Now Allows Direct-to-Consumer Sales of Raw Milk
Beginning July 1, 2023, Iowa producers can sell raw milk within the state under certain conditions. SF 315 provides requirements for the production, sale, and testing of raw milk, raw milk dairy products, and raw milk products. Previously, only Grade “A” pasteurized milk and milk products could be sold. Iowa Code § 192.103 (2022). Before selling raw milk, producers should carefully consider the specific restrictions under the law and potential liabilities.
Raw Milk Overview
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or graded. Iowa Code § 195.1(5). After a farm collects milk in raw form, it is usually transported to a dairy processing plant to undergo testing and the pasteurization process. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), pasteurization “is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time.”[i]
In 1987, the Federal Drug Administration banned the sale and shipment of raw milk across state lines. 21 C.F.R. § 1240.61. This regulation remains in effect today. However, states may regulate the sale of raw milk within their boundaries. Where legal, state regulations generally focus on where raw milk can be sold as well as “herd-share” agreements and testing requirements. Approximately one-third of all states ban the sale of raw milk to customers.
For more information, visit Purdue Extension Raw Milk FAQs.
The FDA has additional information on Food Safety and Raw Milk.
Raw Milk in Iowa: Production
The new law authorizes a “raw milk producer” to elect to produce, process, market, or distribute raw milk, raw milk products, or raw milk dairy products at the raw milk producer's “raw milk dairy,” subject to certain conditions. The law defines a raw milk dairy as an operation, owned or operated by a raw milk producer, where not more than ten dairy animals are maintained to actively produce milk at any one time.
Raw milk producers are subject to the following production requirements:
- The raw milk must be produced exclusively from dairy animals maintained at the raw milk dairy.
- The raw milk must be produced at the raw milk dairy in a manner that ensures the health and safety of persons consuming the raw milk.
- A licensed veterinarian must examine each animal at least once in a twelve-month period. Iowa Code § 195.6. The examination must include a blood test for common diseases that can occur in the specific dairy species.
- Raw milk and all products made from raw milk must be stored at a temperature of no more than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw milk must be sold within seven days of collection. Iowa Code § 195.7.
- Every month, the producer must conduct a test on each animal to determine the bacteria count. The recognized bacteria count limit for coliform cannot exceed ten colony forming units per milliliter (cfu/mL) of coliform. The standard plate count cannot exceed 25,000 cfu/mL. Any milk that exceeds the recognized bacteria count limit cannot be sold. Iowa Code § 195.6. A summary of the tests must be posted at the distribution point on the premises.
- A raw milk producer must keep records of any antibiotics administered to a dairy animal. This includes identifying the type and dosage of the antibiotic, which animal received the drug, and the date and location of where it was administered.
- Records of both the bacteria count tests and antibiotic usage must be maintained for at least three years and made available to any consumer which requests the records. Iowa Code 195.8(2)(a).
Sale of Raw Milk
SF 315 also limits the advertisement, sale, and distribution of raw milk. Producers cannot market the sale of these products at farmers markets or other food establishments. Iowa Code § 137F.8B. Producers can only take orders at the raw milk dairy. Iowa Code § 195.8.
Raw milk cannot be sold by a food retailer including home food processing establishment, restaurant, or grocery store. Iowa Code § 137D.2A. In general, raw milk must be distributed directly to the consumer. It cannot be delivered to a place where food is sold such as a grocery store, restaurant, or farmers market.
Once purchased, raw milk and any associated products cannot be resold. Only the customer as well as their non-paying family, friends, and employees can consume the raw milk. Iowa Code § 195.8.
Labeling of Raw Milk and Associated Products
Special labeling rules apply to all raw milk, raw milk dairy products, and raw milk products distributed. A permanent label must be affixed to the container of these products. For a container holding raw milk, the following notice must be printed word-for-word on the label using upper case letters in at least twelve-point boldface type.
NOTICE TO CONSUMERS
THIS CONTAINER HOLDS RAW MILK THAT IS NOT SUBJECT TO STATE INSPECTION OR OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH REGULATIONS THAT REQUIRE PASTEURIZATION AND GRADING.
Similarly, for a container holding a raw milk dairy product or raw milk product, the label must state:
NOTICE TO CONSUMERS
THIS CONTAINER HOLDS A RAW MILK PRODUCT OR RAW MILK DAIRY PRODUCT THAT IS NOT SUBJECT TO STATE INSPECTION OR OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH REGULATIONS THAT REQUIRE PASTEURIZATION AND GRADING.
If the producer includes an informational or advertising panel on the container, the applicable notice must be part of panel. Iowa Code § 195.9.
Regulation and Enforcement Actions
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) inspects and provides permits to dairy farms which produce milk that will be pasteurized. IDALS is prohibited from adopting rules to administer or enforce the provisions of the new law. Iowa Code §§ 159.6(6), 194.4.
The law provides that the premises of a raw milk dairy acting in compliance with chapter 195 is not a food establishment or a food processing plant regulable by the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals.
The department of health and human services or a local board of health may obtain all coliform count, standard plate count, and antibiotic usage records based on a physician’s signed affidavit that an individual became ill due to the consumption of raw milk or an associated product. Iowa Code §§ 195.10 , 135.16B.
Producers violating the provisions of chapter 195 would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor. Iowa Code §189.21. Presumably, those not operating in compliance with chapter 195 would be subject to potential injunctions or other enforcement actions if it is determined they are selling an adulterated product.
Liability Considerations for Raw Milk Producers
Owning and operating any business brings the risk of injury and lawsuits. Despite best intentions, selling food products can result in severe illness or even death for a consumer. Judgments in serious cases can exceed even substantial policy limits. Before engaging in a new raw milk business venture, a producer should:
- Consult with trusted legal counsel[ii] regarding risks.
- Ensure employees receive appropriate training.
- Keep a record of all safety procedures taken.
- Work with an insurance agent to determine the appropriate coverage for the operation or if any exclusions apply.
- Understand all applicable laws and regulations.
CALT Staff Attorney, Kitt Tovar Jensen, spoke about Iowa’s new raw milk law on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River June 23, 2023, episode.
For more information on safety protocols and best management practices, contact the ISU Extension and Outreach Dairy Field Specialist in your area:
- Northwest Iowa, Fred M. Hall, 712-737-4230 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Northeast Iowa, Jennifer Bentley, 563-382-2949 or email@example.com;
- Southeast Iowa, Larry Tranel, 563-583-6496 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
- ISU Campus, Dr. Gail Carpenter, 515-294-9085 or email@example.com.
[i] Raw Milk Questions & Answers, https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/raw-milk-questions-answers
The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. The Center's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.