Contact: Marti Pupillo
(Washington, D.C. - October 1, 2010) More than two years after the International Dairy Foods Association filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio to protect its members' right to label, an appellate court ruling released yesterday provided a victory for dairy processors and consumers. In a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court decision that would have allowed the state of Ohio to ban the use of compositional claims on dairy product labels and dictate the placement of disclaimer statements.
"We're pleased with the decision and feel that the court upheld our position that IDFA members have the constitutional right to make truthful and not misleading claims on their product labels," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president.
Specifically, the Appeals Court found that the rule's absolute ban on compositional claims, such as "rbST Free," and the prohibition against using an asterisk to connect any claim to any disclaimer violated processors' First Amendment rights. Dairy processors and retailers, responding to growing consumer interest, are providing dairy products made with milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial hormones, such as recombinant bovine somatotropin or rbST. As a result of the ruling, processors may continue to label these products with accurate compositional claims, providing consumers with the products they want and the information they need to make informed decisions.
The Appeals Court also concluded that the state's ban is more extensive than necessary and that prohibiting the use of an asterisk to link to a disclaimer statement "lacks a rational basis." The judges did agree, however, that Ohio could require the use of a disclaimer and the font, style and color to be the same as the claim.
IDFA originally filed the lawsuit on June 30, 2008, and filed its appeal in conjunction with the Organic Trade Association.
# # #
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies representing a $110-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at www.idfa.org.