Earlier this week, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio challenging its new regulations regarding the labeling of dairy products from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones.
In the lawsuit, IDFA says the Ohio rule interferes with the First Amendment right of its members to communicate truthful information to Ohioans and with interstate commerce. The complaint is the result of a controversial dairy product labeling regulation that went into effect on May 22 with a 120-day implementation period.
According to a statement released on Monday, IDFA says its members are manufacturers of dairy products, including milk, cheese and ice cream. “They want to be able to tell consumers which products come from cows that have not been treated with the artificial growth hormone, commonly referred to as rbGH or rbST.”
IDFA's lawsuit says that Ohio’s rule — which dictates not only the words, but the font, style, case, color and even size of the language that must be used on labels — poses unconstitutional restrictions.
“The practical effect of the Ohio rule silences manufacturers of dairy products and prevents Ohioans from knowing whether artificial growth hormones have been used in dairy products,” says Peggy Armstrong, communications director for IDFA. Armstrong adds that Ohio’s labeling regulation is so cumbersome, especially for national and regional dairy manufacturers, that many will be forced to simply drop information about artificial growth hormones on packages altogether.
According to the IDFA lawsuit, the Ohio rule goes well beyond the labeling guidance offered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is significantly different than most other states. As a result, dairy companies will have to create special labels just for Ohio or do away with labeling that provides information about the use of artificial growth hormones. The net effect, IDFA says, is the Ohio law for many of its members is unworkable, costly and impedes commercial free speech and interstate commerce.
“Requiring the use of one label in Ohio when another is used in virtually every other part of the country imposes undue burden and costs on dairy product companies and this comes at a time when the state and national economies are under stress,” Armstrong says.
The legal action by IDFA asks for an immediate injunction.