WASHINGTON — The International Dairy Foods Association has announced opposition to the Dairy Country of Origin Labeling Act. The bill, which was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would extend mandatory country-of-origin labeling to all dairy products sold at retail. The bill's sponsors argue that the new labeling will help U.S. dairies compete, and reassure consumers who were alarmed by last year's news of widespread use of melamine in dairy products in China.
The U.S. imported more than $1.2 billion of dairy products during the first six months of 2009, including more than $444 million of imported cheeses, according to IDFA data. By contrast, fluid milk, condensed milk, yogurt, butter and ice cream accounted for a combined total of less than $75 million in imports during the same period. Other than cheese, most dairy products imported to the U.S. are ingredients used in processed foods, such as protein concentrates and caseinates. IDFA argues that the law will steer suppliers toward dairy substitutes.
“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,” Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs, said in an announcement.