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Ohio Withdraws Onerous Dairy Label Rule

02 November 2011

US - In a major win for member companies of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the state of Ohio has +agreed to drop its regulations for dairy product labels that exceeded federal guidelines for absence claims.

This action comes more than three years after IDFA filed a lawsuit against the state to protect members' rights to label truthfully.

Ohio's labeling regulation, instituted in 2008 by executive order, limited label information provided to consumers and interfered with dairy companies' First Amendment right to commercial free speech. Ohio's abandonment of the rule came as part of the settlement of the litigation with IDFA and the Organic Trade Association.

"We're pleased that the state of Ohio has agreed to withdraw its rule and allow our members to continue to make truthful and not misleading claims on their product labels," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president.

"The agreement upholds our members' constitutional rights and eliminates an impediment to the marketing of dairy products across state lines."

After a lower court upheld Ohio's right to require labeling requirements more stringent than federal guidelines provided by the Food and Drug Administration, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of IDFA in 2010.

Specifically, the Appeals Court found that the Ohio rule's absolute ban on compositional claims, such as "rbST Free," and the prohibition against using an asterisk to connect any claim to any disclaimer violated the processors' First Amendment rights.

Dairy companies currently use labels that follow FDA guidance to assure consumers that their dairy product claims are truthful and not misleading. Using the federal guidelines, processors understand what can and cannot be placed on a label regarding the use of synthetic hormones. Because these are national guidelines that most states follow, dairy companies can use the same product labels to market products locally, regionally and nationally.

IDFA originally filed the lawsuit in 2008, and filed its appeal in conjunction with the Organic Trade Association in 2010.

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