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Pennsylvania Ag Bureaucrats Move to Squelch rBGH-Free Labels on Behalf of Monsanto

Web Note: From Rick North
re "PENNSYLVANIA DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE STRIKES DOWN rBGH-FREE LABELING"

Everyone: ­ This is about as serious as it gets. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture (PDA) announced new regulations that appear to prohibit any kind of rBGH-free labeling on dairy products, including "rBGH (rBST)-Free" and wording such as "Our farmers pledge not to use . . ." The press release is attached.

The PDA examined labeling of 140 companies and decided that 16 didn't comply with their new regulations. Of the 16, seven are headquartered in Pennsylvania and nine in other states that sell products there. The PDA has given these 16 until Dec. 31, 2007 to change their labels.

The rationale given is that current labeling is "making it hard for consumers to make informed decisions." This statement can best be characterized as the brown substance that comes out of the back end of a male bovine.

This has nothing to do with protecting consumers. It's all about suppressing information that allows consumers to make an educated choice about which dairy products to buy. Obviously, Monsanto's cronies have been working hard to pressure Pennsylvania to take steps to stop the tidal wave of dairy processors going rBGH-free. Their solution to consumers flocking to rBGH-free products? Make it impossible for them to tell the difference by eliminating  the labels.

This regulation, incredibly, goes against the rulings of both the FDA and FTC earlier this year that almost all current rBGH-free labeling is appropriate and legal.

Oregon PSR will do everything possible to counter this outrage.

The press release is below:


The rationale given is that current labeling is "making it hard for consumers to make informed decisions." This statement can best be characterized as the brown substance that comes out of the back end of a male bovine.

This has nothing to do with protecting consumers. It's all about suppressing information that allows consumers to make an educated choice about which dairy products to buy. Obviously, Monsanto's cronies have been working hard to pressure Pennsylvania to take steps to stop the tidal wave of dairy processors going rBGH-free. Their solution to consumers flocking to rBGH-free products? Make it impossible for them to tell the difference by eliminating  the labels.

This regulation, incredibly, goes against the rulings of both the FDA and FTC earlier this year that almost all current rBGH-free labeling is appropriate and legal.

Oregon PSR will do everything possible to counter this outrage.

The press release is below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Oct. 24, 2007
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Department of Agriculture                
Commonwealth News Bureau - Room 308, Main Capitol                
Harrisburg, PA  17120
CONTACT: Chris L. Ryder                
(717) 787-5085               

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT NOTIFIES COMPANIES ABOUT FALSE OR MISLEADING MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCT LABELS

HARRISBURG ­ The Department of Agriculture has notified some dairies that sell milk in Pennsylvania that their labels are false or misleading and need to be changed, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff today.

Of the 140 dairy companies whose labels have been reviewed to date, Wolff said 16 use labels that are considered inaccurate or misleading because they contain claims that cannot be verified or implying that their product is safer than others through 'absence labeling' ­ telling consumers what is not present in the milk as opposed to what is.

Wolff said claims such as "antibiotic-free" and "pesticide-free" are misleading because all processed milk sold in Pennsylvania is tested a minimum of 10 times to guarantee that it is free of such substances, which are illegal for milk to contain.

"Consumers rely upon the labeling of a product to make decisions about what they buy and what to feed their families," said Wolff.  "The department must approve the labels for milk sold in Pennsylvania and we're seeing more and more marketing that is making it hard for consumers to make informed decisions."

Label claims that are inaccurate or that cannot be verified are also being seen in the marketplace.  For example, some milk labels contain statements such as "hormone-free," but all milk contains hormones.  Some labels also claim the absence of synthetic hormones, but there is no scientific test that can determine the truth of this claim.

In addition, Wolff said some of the mislabeled products cost more than those labeled correctly.  This has become a degrading factor for low-income families who want to buy safe food for their children but cannot afford more expensive milk that is misleadingly or inaccurately marketed as a safer product.

The Department of Agriculture convened a Food Labeling Advisory Committee made up of dietitians, consumer advocates and food industry representatives earlier this month to discuss potentially misleading labels.  The committee urged Wolff to explore the department's authority in labeling oversight.

The department has authority over food labeling through the Pennsylvania Food Act and the milk sanitation law.  Specific to milk and dairy products sold in the state, the department has the authority to disapprove any label deemed false or misleading.

"Consumers are concerned or confused about product labeling," said Wolff. "It's a subject the department continues to receive many calls about."

The 16 permit holders whose products are mislabeled are located in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts and will have until Jan. 1 to correct the labels.

For more information on the department's food labeling actions, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us
or
http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/ 
and click on "Food Labeling."

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