Industry Asks FDA to Drop Special Labeling Proposal in UF Milk Rulemaking
In joint comments filed today, IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward with the agency's proposed rule to allow the use of liquid ultrafiltered (UF) milk in cheesemaking without a controversial provision that would require special labeling for products made from UF milk that is brought into a cheese plant. IDFA and NMPF were joined in their comments by the American Dairy Products Institute, the Food Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
"We strongly support FDA's proposal to amend its regulations to allow for the use of liquid UF milk in the manufacture of standardized cheese and cheese-related products," state the comments. "However, we take serious issue with the agency's proposed requirement for special ingredient labeling.... We believe the proposed requirement for labeling of outsourced UF milk on the ingredient label is not justified by established FDA precedent, provides no benefit to consumers, is impractical to implement and would result in consumer deception.
"Indeed, we believe the single change that FDA should make in the final rule is to remove the proposed special labeling requirement or otherwise provide for an exemption from ingredient labeling."
Specifically at issue is the labeling of outsourced UF milk that is brought into the cheese plant, as opposed to UF milk that is created within a plant; the "in-process" UF milk is already allowed, without specific labeling, within FDA's alternate make procedures under the federal Standards of Identity.
IDFA and NMPF note that establishing a new labeling requirement for the use of any liquid UF milk is illogical, given that "the use of ultrafiltration in the cheesemaking process has no material effect on the final cheese product."
To support its position, the comments outline the results of consumer research that IDFA commissioned in December 2005 that clearly found that such labeling would be confusing to consumers, who in the study mistakenly attributed important differences in taste, healthfulness and quality when comparing cheese product labels with and without FDA's proposed requirements. These results are supported by a separate study conducted by one of IDFA's member companies. The groups also cite the high cost to manufacturers of keeping and tracking an expanded label inventory, given that cheesemakers tend to use milk and UF milk interchangeably depending on the day-to-day availability of milk supplies.
The comments were submitted in response to FDA's call for input on its proposed rule that was published October 19, 2005. That first step in formal federal rulemaking stemmed from the National Cheese Institute's (NCI) five-year-old petition asking for the allowance of liquid UF milk in the making of standardized cheeses.
To read the full comments, click here (.pdf). To review the original NCI petition or other background information regarding the use of UF milk in cheesemaking, click here.
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Posted January 17, 2006