A threat to Maryland producers of raw pet milk quietly went away on November 28 when the state Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder sent out a letter to interested parties stating that the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) would not be including a requirement to put a dye in raw pet milk in regulations MDA would be issuing governing raw pet milk sales.Inclusion of the dye requirement would have collapsed the market for raw pet milk in the state.
It was suspected that the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH) was pressuring MDA into adopting the dye mandate. MDHMH has jurisdiction over raw milk production and sales for human consumption, which are prohibited in Maryland, while MDA has jurisdiction over raw milk production and sales for pet consumption. Pet milk producers in the state became worried when officials at MDA did not respond to inquiries about the dye requirement over a several month period. It was the letter from Secretary Bartenfelder on behalf of the Governor’s office that broke MDA’s silence on the matter.
As far as is known, MDA had never approved the sale of raw pet milk by in-state producers before the fall of 2015 even though MDA has long had the legal authority to do so. Since that time MDA has approved a number of producers to sell raw pet milk, including Grade A dairies, that had previously only been producing raw milk for pasteurization. The way the approval process works in Maryland is that a producer interested in selling pet milk files an application for registration with the Office of the State Chemist, a division of MDA. If the state chemist approves the application, then the applicant is officially registered and can start selling the product.
The proposed regulations MDA has submitted governing raw pet milk include packaging and labeling requirements as well as a requirement that pet milk sold at a retail store cannot be displayed with or in the vicinity of milk or milk products intended for human consumption. According to Bartenfelder, the draft regulations will be available online at www.dsd.state.md.us/MDR/mdregister.html and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules.