The state has been deliberating how best to label milk derived from cows treated with growth hormones. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) had already proposed to reduce the size of an on-label Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclaimer that states: "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from [the growth hormone] rbST-supplemented and non-rbST supplemented cows". The rule essentially deals with what claims may or may not be made on the labels of milk and milk-based products distributed in Ohio, and ODA said it is trying to level the playing field for processors. "It is the department's responsibility to ensure labels give consumers accurate and balanced information about the dairy products they purchase," said ODA director Robert Boggs. "We believe the amended dairy labeling rule meets this objective." The amendments to the proposed rule are aimed at clarifying language requirements for dairy production and composition claims, as well as for font-size requirements with respect to the FDA disclaimer. However, opponents from industry say these changes could unfairly cripple dairy producers not using hormones. "Imposing labeling restrictions upon dairy processors and unnecessarily limiting their ability to market products is not the way to address this issue," said Jerry Slominski, senior vice president for legislative affairs with the International Dairy Foods Association. "Doing so will only serve to decrease demand for milk and milk products." The current proposed amendments include: • A requirement that the FDA production disclaimer be no smaller than seven point font. • A specification that hormone-related claims, including "No Hormones", "Hormone Free", "rbST Free", "rbGH Free", "No Artificial Hormones", and "bST Free" are false and misleading. • A clarification that production claims with respect to use of antibiotics or pesticides will be permitted. • A stipulation that the rule does not prohibit seals authorized by federal law or Ohio statutes. "This rule will have a significant negative impact upon the dairy industry," said Slominski. "Most significantly, it erects barriers that effectively eliminate nearly every label with a hormone absence claim being made in Ohio prior to the Department's efforts." Industry resistance to the Ohio rule has been widespread - from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, to the Organic Trade Association and Wal-Mart. "On the other side, the only apparent supporters of the labeling restrictions appear to be a few dairy farmers who want to expand the use of artificial growth hormones yet feel threatened that they are losing the demand for milk from their cows," said Slominski. The ODA filed the original rule on February 7 with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review and made the modifications after receiving input at public hearings held March 12 and April 8.
Ohio has made small changes to its proposed dairy labeling rule following comments it received as part of a public hearing April 8, but the modifications are not likely to quell opposition to the measure.