The Ohio Department of Agriculture has issued an Emergency Rule with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) that regulates on dairy labeling regarding recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), a supplement used for milk production. The issue of rBST labeling has become one of the hottest issues in Ohio agriculture, and Director of Agriculture Bob Boggs has taken the point on identifying a workable solution.
The rule will require any processor using a claim related to milk from cows not supplemented with rBST to to prove production claims are accurate through proper documentation (for example, producer-signed affidavits, farm weight tickets, and processing plant audit trails are among some of the supporting documents that must be readily available for ODA inspection). Perhaps more importantly, the rule requires such labels to also contain a contiguous, identically formatted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclaimer stating, “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows.” In other words, to quote the Director, the label will have to be on the same panel, the same size, the same font, the same color” as the marketing claim. In other words, this isn’t going to be like the surgeon General’s Warning on a pack of Camels.
In terms of the specifics of implementing the rule, the Governor has taken action to supplement the ODA rulemaking process:
Governor Ted Strickland signed an executive order today, issuing an emergency rule prohibiting the mislabeling of dairy products and defining what constitutes false and misleading labels for dairy products. The emergency rule, effective immediately, establishes acceptable, more consistent labeling practices for dairy marketing organizations and labeling entities pertaining to rbST.
The emergency rule provides guidance to the dairy industry and helps interpret the existing law contained in Ohio Revised Code 917.05 and 3715.60. These laws authorize ODA to take enforcement action if a dairy label contains false or misleading statements.
The emergency rule is in effect for 90 days while ODA completes the statutory rule-making process through the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. As part of the process, a formal public hearing will be held to give stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule.
ODA Dairy Chief Lewis Jones says there are roughly 40 processors in Ohio who will be affected by the rule. ODA estimates nearly 15% of milk produced in Ohio is a result of rBST use.