Federal Agencies Advised of Misleading Milk Labels and Advertising

More than 500 interested parties join Monsanto to ask FDA and FTC to focus on companies that use deceptive milk labels and ads

ST LOUIS (April 3, 2007) – Monsanto Company announced today that letters from more than 500 concerned individuals and Monsanto have been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting action to stop deceptive milk labeling and advertising. The two letters outline how certain milk labels and promotions that differentiate milk based on farmer use of POSILAC bovine somatotropin (bST) are misleading to consumers and do not meet the standards set by laws and regulations for either the Federal Trade Commission or the Food and Drug Administration.

“The people who signed these letters are dairy producers, industry professionals and consumers from across the country who have expressed concerns about specific labels they find to be false or misleading,” said Kevin Holloway, president of Monsanto Dairy Business. “In many cases, they came to Monsanto to find out what could be done about milk marketing tactics that disparage milk and deny farmers a choice in using approved technologies. We believe FDA and FTC are the correct agencies to address the matter with the companies who employ misleading labels or promotions.”

The letter to the FDA highlights deceptive milk labels and calls for clear guidance and enforcement by FDA to address labeling that disparages milk from cows supplemented with POSILAC. The letter to the FTC outlines deceptive advertising and milk promotions that mislead consumers and requests FTC begin an investigation into the challenged practices. Specific examples of misleading labels and ads are cited and attached to the letters. Letters and attachments are available at www.monsanto.com/posilac/letters.

Monsanto submitted the first set of signed letters on behalf of all who signed them in February and continues to compile additional letters as dairy producers and others sign them.

“This is of great concern to dairy producers, “said Dennis Areias, a Los Banos, Calif., dairy producer who signed the letters. “Deceptive labels suggest to consumers that there is something wrong with the milk they have been drinking for the past 13 years. Even though the companies that print these labels know this is not true, they choose to mislead consumers in an effort to charge more money for the same milk.”

FDA conducted a thorough review of POSILAC before approving the product in 1993 and determined milk from supplemented cows to be the same as milk from non-supplemented cows.

In a recent study, lab analysis of 95 different brands of retail milk purchased in 48 states confirmed all milk naturally contains the same hormones. There was no difference in hormone content of retail milk based on label claims regarding the use of POSILAC. The findings of the study, conducted by Monsanto with third-party testing facilities and an independent auditing firm, reinforce that milk marketing claims differentiating milk based on the use of POSILAC are meaningless.

“Deceptive labels and ads are not only damaging to dairy producers who are forced to give up technology that helps them make a living, they hurt consumers” said John Vrieze, an Emerald, Wisc., dairy producer who also signed the letters to the FDA and FTC. “The misleading language clearly aims to scare people into paying more for the same milk. These ill-gotten gains are not shared with farmers and shame on us if we would seek to profit by disparaging the image of milk that we have invested heavily in promoting as a safe, healthy product.”


Terry Etherton’s perspectives about misleading labels.

The filing of the Petitions with FDA and FTC is an important stop to pursue in the context of promoting “truth-in-labeling”. As the release conveys (and has been covered in my Blog), many milk marketers have gone down the path of seeking forgiveness rather than regulatory approval for using the countless (and shameless) labels that different milk and dairy products by the use of “absence claims”. They have gotten away this – FDA and FTC need to step in and FIX the problem.

These absence claims have one objective: to scare consumers. The idea that rbST-free milk and organic milk should be differentiated from conventional milk on the basis of labels that communicate “no antibiotics, artificial hormones, or dangerous pesticides” is a prime example of the smoke and mirrors milk marketing campaigns that are ongoing. The fact is that ALL milk is the same relative to composition, safety and wholesomeness.

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