The dispute over raw milk has become one of the most heated debates in the food law community over the last several years—proponents and opponents alike have even staged protests at the White House. Raw milk is currently illegal in 22 states. On Feb. 16, the Harvard Food Law Society staged a debate on the issue at Harvard Law School.

Before the advent of pasteurization, everyone consumed raw milk. Today, a slim minority does. Opponents of raw milk say there is too much risk of illness from such foodborne diseases as campylobacter, listeria and salmonella. Proponents of raw milk argue that pasteurization destroys or damages many of the milk’s nutrients and kills the good bacteria along with the bad. They contest that milk from pastured, local cows is just as safe as pasteurized milk.

Representing the opposition is Heidi Kassenborg, director of the Dairy & Food Inspection Division of Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Fred Pritzker, a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Pritzker Olson. He has represented clients throughout the U.S. in cases involving foodborne illness, including several clients who have become severely ill due to raw milk.

On the other side of the debate are David Gumpert, author of “The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights,” and Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.”