INDUSTRY GROUPS CHALLENGE BST MILK LABELING LAW

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Three national food associations are challenging a new Vermont milk labeling law, charging it violates federal laws on several fronts.At issue is whether Vermont can require all milk and milk products from cows treated with the synthetic milk-producing hormone, bovine somatotropin, be labeled as such.The International Dairy Foods Association, the Grocery Manufacturers of America

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Three national food associations are challenging a new Vermont milk labeling law, charging it violates federal laws on several fronts.

At issue is whether Vermont can require all milk and milk products from cows treated with the synthetic milk-producing hormone, bovine somatotropin, be labeled as such.

The International Dairy Foods Association, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the National Food Processors Association contend in a lawsuit against the state that the Vermont law runs afoul of federal truth-in-labeling laws. Vermont is one of 17 states to have passed or to be considering BST labeling laws. No court date had been set as of last week.

Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year determined the synthetic hormone to be safe and to not materially alter the composition of milk produced from treated cattle. The agency has said labeling of milk produced with synthetic BST should follow federal food-labeling guidelines and should not suggest that there are any safety concerns about consuming milk from treated cattle.

"By filing this lawsuit, we want to send a clear message that the dairy food industries will not tolerate BST labeling that is so clearly in violation of FDA's comprehensive voluntary labeling guidelines," C. Manly Molpus, GMA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, the Vermont law implies to "consumers that milk products from supplemented cows contain an artificial or foreign constituent that is absent in milk products from unsupplemented cows, a qualitative assertion for which there is no support."

These associations, in addition to six others, have asked FDA to rein in states spearheading BST labeling. The agency, though, has yet to indicate it will take any action, with officials only commenting that they are watching the situation and are weighing whether action should be taken.