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Milk hearing draws too big a crowd

Terri Lawton, above, who runs the dairy operation at Lawton Family Farm, says she thinks the new regulations are designed to put her out of business. Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/File 2008

FOXBOROUGH — Raw milk aficionados turned out in droves at Monday’s Board of Health hearing on a proposal for stringent milk rules — so many that the meeting was postponed until a larger venue could be booked.

“We usually have three people” at a hearing “if we’re lucky,” said board member Eric Arvedon, who initiated the proposed regulations. “Nobody cares about the Board of Health.”

But at least 140 people cared enough to fill the hearing room and the lobby outside last Monday night in support of Lawton’s Family Farm, which sells unpasteurized milk to about 200 families. The 281-year-old farm, which sits in the shadow of Gillette Stadium , told its customers that the proposed new rules could put the farm out of business.


Angelina Lindsay came from Marshfield with her two small children — 6-month-old Aubrey and 3-year-old Nicholas — to oppose the rules. “It’s so hard to find good quality food. I want to support that,” she said, adding that she would return for the new hearing.

Supporters say raw milk has health benefits, particularly for people with allergies. On the other side, there is concern that unpasteurized milk can cause illnesses spread by bacteria.

The state Department of Agricultural Resources regulates raw milk dairies, but allows communities to impose higher standards or ban its sale, according to state spokeswoman Amy Mahler. There are 28 farms selling raw milk in the state, she said.

She said 194 municipalities in Massachusetts have banned the sale of raw milk. One town — Framingham — has rules for raw milk production and sales that are stricter than the state’s, she said.

Lawton attachs a label to a bottle of raw milk.Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/File 2008

Arvedon said he based his proposed regulations on Framingham’s — and that he did it because Lawton’s Family Farm has had high bacteria counts twice since April and he was concerned for the public’s health.


Terri Lawton, who runs the dairy operation, said she thinks the new rules are intended to put her out of business. She suggested the Board of Health would do better spending its time focusing on foods sold at Gillette Stadium or its adjacent mall.

“The state already regulates raw milk, and we think they do a good job,” she added. “The state regulations are based on science, and experts on dairy food safety do the inspections. I don’t think the [Foxborough] Board of Health has anyone trained” to do that.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.