The International Dairy Foods Association and the Organic Trade Association filed suit yesterday with Ohio, claiming the state's new BST-free labeling law impedes free speech rights. The legal action asks for an immediate injunction.
The law went into effect on May 22, and has a 120-day implementation period. It dictates not only the words, but the font, style, case, color and size of type that must be used on dairy products claiming to be BST-free.
The regulations are so cumbersome, says Peggy Armstrong, IDFA communications director, that many national and regional dairy manufacturers will be forced to drop information about BST on packages altogether. "The practical effect of the Ohio rules silences manufacturers of dairy products and prevents Ohioans from knowing whether artificial growth hormones have been used in dairy products,” says Armstrong.
Ben & Jerry's, the Vermont ice cream maker, claims the new rules will require $250,000 in label changes for its company alone.
The Organic Trade Association is also concerned that other states are considering different labeling regulations with conflicting provisions, impeding interstate commerce for companies that market dairy products in multiple states. It also asserts the Ohio law interferes with and is preempted by longstanding federal organic law.
Proponents of the Ohio law and increased regulation in other states say manufacturers have not followed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules regarding BST-free labels, and that FDA has been lax in enforcing its own rules. Producers using BST have also been frustrated that manufacturers offer little or no premium for BST-free milk at the farm, yet charge consumers 20% to 30% or more for the BST-free products. These state efforts are the result of this frustration.