The Iowa Senate has passed a bill to legalize the sale of raw milk at dairy farms.

It still would be illegal to sell unpasteurized milk at restaurants and farmers markets if the bill becomes law, but raw milk and other products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream that are made with unpasteurized milk could be sold legally at the dairy where it’s processed.

Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the bill makes something legal that’s going on already. “I don’t think in this state people ought to be criminalized for things that they choose to do that don’t harm someone else,” Bisignano said.

Republican Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig said the vast majority of states now allow raw milk sales in some fashion. “If we do this, get it all the way through, there’ll be only five states left,” Schultz said. “…It’s not a political issue. This is just a (decision of): ‘Do we want to let the people who want this have access to it?”

Raw milk enthusiasts say milk that hasn’t been pasteurized has more nutrients and tastes better. Critics say raw milk contains dangerous bacteria. The Iowa Farm Bureau, the state’s diary industry and Iowa grocers oppose the bill. Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, said raw milk should have a warning label because pregnant women are at serious risk of becoming ill from Listeria if they consume it.

“A warning label to prevent stillbirth, miscarriage, death of a newborn and illness of a pregnant mom I don’t believe is too much to ask,” Petersen said.

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville said federal data shows at least 144 Americans had to be hospitalized between 1993 and 2012 after consuming raw milk.

“This idea that there’s no connections to hospitalizations or outbreaks is simply not true,” Wahls said.

Previous attempts to legalize raw milk sales in Iowa have stalled in the past two decades. The Senate bill on the subject passed on a 32-15 vote and goes to the House for review.

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