Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Milk Labeling Rules Sow Confusion, Anger

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Milk Labeling Rules Sow Confusion, Anger

Article excerpt

As much as BST is a battle of science and economics, it's also a battle of bureaucracy.

Federal guidelines on food labeling have angered BST opponents, confused grocers and consumers and prompted states to complain about unfunded mandates.

"We're being put into the position of enforcing interim (federal) guidelines that have no force of law," said Tom Messenger, director of the consumer protection for the Colorado Department of Health. "This puts all of us in a difficult position."

The FDA prohibits mandatory labels - stickers on food containers and signs in stores identifying products that use milk from BST-treated cows.

BST isn't a food ingredient and it doesn't change the composition of food, so a label isn't necessary, the FDA says.

But the agency said 12 months ago that farmers, food producers and grocers could use "voluntary" labels, proclaiming that their products exclude milk from BST-treated cows. The labels must be "truthful and not misleading."

Voluntary labels also must contain qualifying statements noting there is no difference in milk from treated or untreated cows, the FDA says. Producers must provide detailed proof that BST wasn't used in their milk.

Those interim guidelines have provoked more than 5,000 comments to FDA, but a spokeswoman said she didn't know when the agency would issue final guidelines.

While FDA reviews, the states stew. Last summer, Colorado and 12 other members of the Western Association of Food and Drug Officials asked the FDA to develop enforceable BST labeling rules or eliminate labels.

"We're spending a lot of time and resources on this," said Kyle Stephens, director of regulatory services for the Utah Department of Agriculture and immediate past president of the association.

Many states like Missouri use the FDA's interim guidelines. Many states have fielded calls from companies about voluntary labels, but no one has sought permission from Missouri, said Terry S. Long, executive director of the Missouri State Milk Board. …

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