Consumers and Farmers Call for End to Misleading Milk Marketing

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The Center for Global Food Issues submits over 1,000 signatures petitioning regulators and responsible business leaders on false and misleading dairy labels.

Marketing claims which imply otherwise are irresponsible and in many cases illegal; however, regulators and the dairy industry are turning a blind eye to these damaging practices.

The Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), a member of the Stop Labeling Lies Coalition, has collected more than 1,000 signatures from dairy producers and consumers demanding action by regulators, retailers and the dairy industry to end misleading and false milk labeling and marketing tactics. According to Alex Avery, Director of Research and Education for the CGFI, claims made by certain dairy packagers and some retailers about milk production methods are purposefully inaccurate and entirely false or misleading.

"Dairy products which are labeled with absence claims regarding antibiotics, hormones or pesticides are misleading consumers and disparaging milk products which do not engage in these marketing tactics. All milk and dairy products naturally contain over 25 hormones required by cows to produce milk. No dairy adds pesticides to milk, and all milk is tested to ensure it is free of antibiotics," say Avery. "Marketing claims which imply otherwise are irresponsible and in many cases illegal; however, regulators and the dairy industry are turning a blind eye to these damaging practices."

CGFI's Milk is Milk consumer, producer and retailer research and education campaign has found a majority of consumers presented with label and advertising claims such as "no added artificial hormones" or "antibiotic-free" or "produced without toxic pesticides" clearly form beliefs that milk with these labels is different, of superior quality, and/or healthier. Certain retailers and dairy packagers compound this problem with disparaging in-store displays and uninformed dairy case managers who give false information about milk safety and quality.

Hormone claims are particularly damaging to consumer perceptions - influencing purchased decisions by as much as 68 percent in some surveys. All milk naturally contains hormones; no hormones (other than Vitamin D3 - a steroid hormone) are added to milk. The protein growth hormone, known as bST or bGH, is also naturally found in all milk. According to the American Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and the World Health Organization milk from cows receiving the supplemental protein growth hormone known as rbST is identical to milk from all other cows. According to these and the dozens of other science, academic and regulatory organizations which have extensively reviewed this issue, the dairy products from cows which receive this supplement to help them efficiently produce more milk is the same. These groups also find bST supplemented cows are as healthy as or healthier than those which do not get these supplements. Similarly, extensive peer reviewed academic research shows organic milk to be identical to non-organic, conventionally produced milk.

The petition, which has been signed by concerned consumers and diary farmers from all across the country, is aimed at letting government officials and dairy processors know that marketing milk by using absence claims is causing serious and irreversible economic harm to dairy farmers and consumers alike. According to the petition, farmers and food processors should have the right to use safe and approved production methods (including organic manuring practices, approved conventional crop protection methods or modern biotechnology) to produce food without having their products disparaged as "tainted" or "inferior" by competitors through false or misleading absence claims by competitors.

Additionally, the petition argues that consumers should have access to useful, truthful and non-misleading food safety, ingredient and nutritional information to help them make informed decisions that will impact the health and well-being of their families. Consumers who seek products using certain production methods should also have access to accurate and verifiably truthful information which allows them to make informed purchase decisions.    

Avery is quick to remind concerned consumers that these labeling tactics are harmful to everyone except dairy marketing interests which charge significant premiums for milk making misleading absence claims. "These fear profiteering processors are banking on the fact that consumers believe organic and other niche-marketed "organic lite" milk is safer and healthier for them, and that some are willing to pay significant premiums for this false belief. Sadly, others who cannot afford the 50 to 200 percent premiums often turn away from milk altogether seeking other less nutritious beverage products for their families.'"

To see the full petition and signatures, please visit Stop Labeling Lies petition page.


Alex Avery
Center for Global Food Issues


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