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CU applauds new Pennsylvania milk labeling rules

January 17, 2008

In Reversal, State Will Allow Labels About Artificial Hormones

YONKERS, NY — Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, applauded the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for new rules issued today which will allow milk producers to inform consumers if they don’t use recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) on their cows. In October, the state published regulations that prohibited dairies from indicating anything on milk labels about their use or non-use of hormones. The rules were supposed to go into effect on February 1, 2008.
“This is a victory for free speech, free markets, sustainable farming, and the consumer’s right to know,” stated Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist with Consumers Union. “Consumers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced, and particularly whether it is produced in natural and sustainable manner. There is no justification for prohibiting information about rbGH use on a milk label. Pennsylvania deserves credit for realizing that its initial regulation prohibiting such labeling was flawed, and for reversing its position.”
RbGH is a drug product marketed by Monsanto that raises a cow’s milk output. However consumers have increasingly turned to organic milk and other milk brands that require their farmers to eschew use of the hormone on their cows. The number of cows treated with the drug has dropped from 22.3 percent of all dairy cows in 2002 to 17.2 percent in 2007.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that that rbGH use is safe, it has been prohibited in Canada and the European Union. Consumers Union questions its safety.
Many Pennsylvania dairy farmers have pledged not to use rbGH, and are advertising this fact on milk labels. The new rules issued today will allow them to continue to do so. Other states including Washington, Missouri, and Ohio, have been considering regulations similar to those which Pennsylvania abandoned today. And New Jersey had until recently taken the matter under consideration but has since determined not to take action.
One new requirement in the Pennsylvania regulations is that dairies must maintain procedures to verify any production methods claimed on their labels, including keeping a paper audit trail. “We support the new requirements about verification. It is important that these claims be truthful and that there are safeguards in place to prevent cheating,” stated Hansen.
The new regulations issued today, which will go into effect at the end of January, bring Pennsylvania label requirements in line with the recommendations of the FDA.
A broad coalition of groups including consumers, dairies, farming groups, and environmental organizations requested the changes announced today. Their letter is available online at the following link: www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/notinmyfood/005230indiv.html.

Tildy La Farge 914.378.2436, mlafarge@consumer.org
Michael Hansen 914.378.2452, mhansen@consumer.org
Consumers Union is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 under the laws of the State of New York to provide consumers with information, education and counsel about goods, services, health, and personal finance. Consumers Union’s income is solely derived from the sale of Consumer Reports, its other publications and from noncommercial contributions, grants and fees. In addition to reports on Consumers Union’s own product testing, Consumer Reports and ConsumerReports.org, with more than 6.2 million paid circulation, regularly carries articles on health, product safety, marketplace economics and legislative, judicial and regulatory actions that affect consumer welfare. Consumers Union’s publications carry no advertising and receive no commercial support.