In recent months, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been working closely with consumer, dairy and other industry stakeholders to help counteract measures proposed in various states that would interfere with organic milk producers’ rights to make truthful labeling claims concerning their production practices and consumers’ rights to know how the milk they purchase is produced.
OTA is deeply concerned about these state actions that would severely restrict truthful and accurate labels on consumer goods. Labeling regulations at every level of government must protect the consumer from fraudulent claims, while simultaneously defending the consumers’ right to accurate information on how their food was produced.
These challenges, in some cases, go to the heart of the organic message about how certified organic agriculture operates, its inputs, and the materials and substances that have been deliberately removed from use in organic agriculture. Some proposals are not limited to dairy labels. Some also challenge the right to advertise as well as to label the absence of prohibited hormones and other substances.
In 1990 the U.S. Congress enacted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) regulating labeling claims and the documentation required for labeling claims on organic products. State regulation of labeling on organic products is prohibited unless approved by the United States Secretary of Agriculture.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance issued on February 10, 1994, provides a national framework protecting consumers from misleading information while respecting commercial free speech rights, consumers’ right-to-know, the interests of dairy producers, processors, and manufacturers, and the facilitation of existing and future interstate commerce. As recently as August 2007, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA rejected a request for new restrictions on rBST marketing claims at the federal level. FTC reiterated FDA’s conclusions from 1994, and stated “food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST.
Any efforts that restrict organic farmers and producers from truthfully communicating to consumers and conflict with the FDA guidance and OFPA infringe on interstate commerce, consumers’ right to know, and free speech. Arbitrarily saying that a truthful statement cannot be made is simply unacceptable.
Truthful and factual labeling is an important issue for consumers as well as for farmers, retailers and food manufacturers.
For additional fact sheets related to this issue, see the following:
Backgrounder: Dairy Labeling and Government Guidance
Understanding Genetically Engineered Growth Hormones in Dairy
Letter to Ohio Governor Strickland March 11, 2008
OTA Ohio State Congressional Testimony, March 12, 2008
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Tribune Editorial - Mystery milk: Rule change would keep consumers in the dark