IDFA Opposes New Fluid Milk Definition in Comments to USDA
In comments filed last week with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), IDFA strenuously opposes the agency's recommended decision to amend the Class I fluid milk product definition for all Federal Milk Marketing Orders. IDFA continues to assert that no evidence exists to justify any change in the current regulation.
In its comments, IDFA emphasizes that no data or analysis submitted in the request for a hearing or the hearing record demonstrates the need for any change to the fluid milk definition. In fact, the comments state, testimony in the hearing record actually warns that the proposed changes will harm product innovation and decrease the use of dairy products as ingredients.
The proposed rule suggests several key changes, including new protein criteria. While it maintains the current exemption for beverages with less than 6.5% nonfat solids by weight, the proposed change would require these beverages to have less than 2.25% true protein from all milk ingredients, including whey and casein products.
In its comments, IDFA states that adopting new protein criteria would reduce the use of dairy ingredients in new beverage products and lower the market demand for milk. IDFA believes that whey-based ingredients specifically should not be included when calculating percentages of nonfat solids or protein in beverages.
In addition, the new definition appears to give USDA officials discretion to determine whether a product is comparable to other fluid milk products with respect to form and intended use. If deemed comparable, the product would not be exempt.
IDFA's comments point out that the food industry invests significant time and money in the development of new products, and manufacturers must have advance knowledge of the costs associated with potential ingredients. By including unclear, subjective criteria such as "form and intended use" in the recommended decision, the USDA fails to provide ingredient cost certainty for any dairy-based ingredient.
USDA will review all comments before issuing a final rule. The agency would conduct a referendum of affected producers in each marketing area before implementing any changes.
To read IDFA's summary of the proposed rule changes, click here. To read IDFA's comments to USDA, click here. For more information, contact John Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3514.
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Posted July 24, 2006