New Dairy Law In Ohio Designed To Strangle "rBGH-free" Labeling

Monsanto failed to get the FDA to ban “rBGH-free” labeling nationally, and it’s had mixed success at the state level. Now the company and its gang of ethics-free dairy farmers (those are the ones who use rBGH to increase profits, but want that truth kept out of the marketplace because it’s unpopular with consumers) have scored a significant win in Ohio this week. Yesterday the state passed a law that forces extra, rBGH-friendly fine print on every milk label that promotes itself as “rBGH-free.” The goal of the ruling: to require expensive label redesigns on competitors, and to crowd the label with unnecessary fine print in order to dilute the marketing power of the “rBGH-free” label.

The Columbus Dispatch explains some of the expected consequences of the ruling:

The Kroger Co., for example, recently made the switch to milk from cows who don’t receive the added hormone, saying that it’s what consumers wanted. Ben & Jerry’s Homeade Inc. has done the same.
 
Both companies argued against the rule change, saying it was a solution in search of a nonexistent problem and would require expensive labeling changes that would potentially hurt their position in the marketplace.
 
“They simply did not consider the costs of designing labels, not to mention marketing strategies,” said Jerry Slominski, senior vice president for legislative affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association, which represents 85 percent of the nation’s milk, cheese and ice cream makers.
 
Janene Holmes, marketing assistant for the Smith Dairy Products Company, told lawmakers that the family owned company pays its farmers a premium to supply milk from cows not treated with the growth hormone. The new labeling rule will require the company to move its hormone advertisement to a less prominent place on the label, Holmes said.

Food and Water Watch sent out the following statement (emphasis ours):

“On Monday, Ohio passed a milk-labeling rule that could deny all Americans important information about how their milk was produced. Governor Strickland, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s rule limiting hormone-free milk labels goes far beyond the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance. It is clear that this rule was crafted for industrial agribusiness and not consumers. It requires the prohibitive use of a misleading disclaimer, while banning accurate claims such as ‘rBGH-free’ and ‘artificial growth hormone-free.’
 
“In a nation where milk is sold across state lines and by national chains and distributers, labeling laws in just a few states will impact consumers nationwide. If other states follow Ohio’s lead, it will be challenging for national dairy companies who do not use artificial growth hormones to comply with differing state labeling rules. Already Kroger and Wal-Mart, while they’ve gone rBGH-free this year, have decided not to label their milk pending the outcome of the state-by-state battles.
 
“The effects of Ohio’s new rule will be felt throughout the country. Consumers everywhere will lose important information, as dairies struggle to comply with the worst milk-labeling rule in the nation.”

“Ohio adopts new dairy label rule for synthetic hormones” [The Columbus Dispatch]

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