IDFA and Elanco, the new owner of the artificial growth hormone Posilac, also known as rbST, seemed to be on the same page last week as they presented testimony at a hearing with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Discussing the state's proposed regulation to restrict absence claims, representatives from both organizations agreed that federal labeling guidelines would be a better solution for the industry and consumers.
This hearing continued the public comment period for a proposed state rule that would restrict the use of absence claims on dairy products made from milk from cows not treated with rbST. IDFA Senior Group Vice President Clay Hough attended the hearing and presented testimony, urging the department to drop the proposed regulation and continue to follow the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for dairy product labeling.
In its statement, Elanco said a "market-driven collaborative resolution" to the current debate was essential to developing a favorable outcome for both Kansas producers and consumers. While it didn't name the FDA guidelines specifically, Elanco said it supports and recognizes the value of federal labeling guidelines.
"Nationally designed federal guidelines provide a common set of parameters to ensure consumer protection while allowing for a uniform business environment for producers, processors and all involved in the food chain," Elanco's statement said. "In the department's regulatory process, Elanco is seeking a collaborative resolution to the proposed regulation."
According to the proposed rule, all dairy products featuring an artificial hormone-absence claim would be required to include a contiguous disclaimer stating that there is no difference between milk from cows treated with rbST and milk from cows not treated. The absence claim and disclaimer would be required to be the same font, style, case, size and color.
The FDA guidance allows production claims, such as "from cows not treated with rbST," and suggests that a prominent disclaimer also be provided in reasonable proximity to the claim. IDFA does not oppose the requirement for the disclaimer and has instructed members to include disclaimers on their labels for over a decade, Hough told department staff.
IDFA is part of a broad coalition, which includes more than 90 other groups, opposing the proposed rule in Kansas. If passed, the rule would take effect January 2010.
The proposed regulation is similar to the rule adopted by the state of Ohio earlier this year. IDFA has challenged the legality of Ohio's rule, saying it violates processors' rights to free speech as well as the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
In his testimony, Hough said the Ohio case is currently waiting for a decision from the judge, and it's likely that the decision would determine the legality of similar regulations. He encouraged the Kansas Department of Agriculture to wait for the Ohio opinion before proceeding.