Ohio rBST rule comes under attack
Foods Association (IDFA) are fighting against the State of Ohio for
its new regulations regarding growth hormone labeling.
Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), also referred to as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), is a synthetic variant of the naturally occurring hormone in the pituitary gland of cattle, which can be injected into a cow to increase milk production. A growing number of processors and retailers are seeking to add a "no-rbST" label in response to consumer demands for natural foods free from additives and other artificial added extras. Ohio state's new regulations, which came into effect on May 22, state that dairy companies can only include the statement "from cows not supplemented with artificial growth hormones" in their product labeling, if it is followed by the disclaimer, "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST supplemented cows". It also states the size, font, color and location of the labeling, and requires that dairy processors alleged to have violated these provisions are subject to a range of penalties, fuelling a debate that has long been raging over the labeling of the hormones. Organic producers and association say interfering with established acceptance for labeling products as free from growth hormones prevents consumers from receiving truthful information. "The practical effect of the Ohio rule silences manufacturers of dairy products and prevents Ohioans from knowing whether artificial growth hormones have been used in dairy products," said Peggy Armstrong, communications director for IDFA. On the other side though, organizations such as rBST producer Monsanto, have previously claimed rBST-free labels mislead consumers into thinking they are superior to those from cows treated with the hormone. Argument against rBST-free labeling According to the OTA, the regulation "stifles free speech", "restricts the flow of products" and "interferes with and is preempted by a longstanding federal organic law". It said the rules will hurt organic farmers, producers and processors by restricting their ability to clearly declare their products are free from growth hormones - a factor necessary for the product to receive organic status. Additionally, cost problems would follow as companies would have to re-label products, "at a time of unprecedented commodity pressures on milk producers". The IDFA said the Ohio rule goes well beyond the labeling guidance offered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is greatly different from most other states, meaning companies would have to have different labels for different states. "Requiring the use of one label in Ohio when another is used in virtually every other part of the country imposes undue burden and costs on dairy product companies and this comes at a time when the state and national economies are under stress," said Armstrong. While the OTA has filed a complaint, IDFA has asked for an immediate injunction. Background Different states have different rules regarding the labeling of growth hormones in dairy products. In February, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food introduced proposals to prohibit dairy companies declaring their products as free from a growth hormone, again angering industry. The previous month, a similar bill on organic milk labeling up for consideration in the Indiana House of Representatives came under criticism frp, organizations and producers claiming it would prevent informed consumer choice if passed. At the same time, Pennsylvania decided against enforcing the ban on labeling organic milk using the absence claims. The state's proposal would have prevented dairy companies saying their products were free from antibiotics and pesticides as well as rBGH. The same month, coffee retailer Starbucks said it had removed all rBGH from its US network of stores. Monsanto's rBGH is not permitted for use in the EU, but has been available in the US since gaining FDA approval in 1994.