Three U.S. senators introduced legislation last week that would mandate country-of-origin labeling for all dairy products. IDFA and others oppose the legislation, because it would reduce demand for dairy products and cause U.S. food manufacturers to use more non-dairy ingredients.
Country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, requires retailers to identify for customers the source of certain foods. Currently only meats, nuts and raw produce are subject to COOL requirements, and all ingredients used in processed foods are exempt. The new bill, S. 1783, would retain the exemption for all processed foods except fluid milk, cheese, ice cream, butter and all other dairy products.
Although the sponsors, Senators Al Franken (D-MN) (pictured), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), pointed to consumer choice as a reason for the bill, they also wrongly think it will address low milk prices and the crisis facing dairy farmers. Noting in his statement that dairy farmers are in dire straights, Franken indicated that COOL would be another "tool in the shed" to fight the "economic storm" they face.
"This legislation is misguided, because it would do nothing to help America's dairy farmers," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. "Imposing additional labeling mandates on dairy products, which are not imposed on other processed foods, will reduce demand for dairy products and encourage food manufacturers to substitute vegetable-based or other protein ingredients instead of dairy ingredients."
The National Milk Producers Federation also expressed opposition to the proposed legislation, which mirrors a bill introduced in 2008 by then-Senator Hillary Clinton. Pointing to ongoing industry and trade challenges stemming from current COOL requirements for meats, NMPF Senior Vice President Chris Galen told "Dairy Today" magazine, "Now is not the time to apply a similar requirement for dairy products."
Food safety legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July includes a COOL provision that would require labels on processed foods to identify the country where the final food processing occurred. The Senate has yet to consider food safety legislation, but may do so in the next few months.
IDFA will aggressively oppose this bill. For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3553.