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Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Ban On rBGH-Free Labels On Dairy Products

September 30, 2010

Relying on evidence of compositional differences between milk from cows treated with rbST/rbGH and milk from untreated cows, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today struck down an Ohio state ban on labels pertaining to the use of artificial hormones in dairy products (IDFA et al v. Boggs, U.S. Court of Appeals). The Ohio state rule in question banned statements such as “rbGH Free,” “rbST Free” and “artificial hormone free,” aimed at providing consumers with the information needed to make informed choices. 

In striking down the rule, the Court relied on evidence presented by Center for Food Safety and other friends of the court finding that “…contrary to the district court’s assertion, a compositional difference does exist between milk from untreated cows and conventional milk… As detailed by the amici parties seeking to strike down the Rule…” The court went on to elaborate that “the use of rbST in milk production has been shown to elevate the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a naturally-occurring hormone that in high levels is linked to several types of cancers, among other things.” The Court also found that the use of rbST “induces an unnatural period of milk production” resulting in milk “considered to be low quality,” and that milk from treated cows turns sour more quickly, another indicator of poor milk quality.

“As we have continuously maintained, consumers are not misled by labels on food products but instead have seen these labels for years and are comfortable with them,” said Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney with the Center for Food Safety, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The Court confirmed the right of consumers to use these labels to make informed purchasing decisions for themselves and their families.”

Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin, known commonly as rbST or rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), is a genetically engineered, artificial growth hormone approved in 1993 by FDA to increase milk production in cows. Since its approval, scientists worldwide have published a wealth of information cautioning the use of rbST as potentially harmful to consumers and have called for further studies. Consumers and scientists alike are concerned about the presence of rbST in milk because of risks to human health including cancer and the creation of antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as impacts on animal welfare such as mastitis, a painful udder disease.