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Consumer Group Urges FDA Action on 'rBST-free' Ads

African-American organization cites deceptive marketing in complaint.

Dean Foods, H.P. Hood and other milk merchandisers now are catching "heat" from consumers over their push to market "rBST-free" or "no rBST" milk. Last week, the National Organization for African Americans in Housing, a non-profit advocate for low-income citizens, called on U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop dairy processors from deceptively marketing "no rBST" milk.

In the letter, NOAAH Board Secretary Kevin Marchman challenged the labeling, noting that "no rBST" milk is identical to other milk, but costs more. "We worry that low-income consumers — fearing 'hormones in milk' but unable to afford the more expensive "rBST free" products — will stop drinking milk altogether and opt for less-healthy alternatives," Marchman wrote.

"The expressed position of FDA and many other government and independent organizations is that milk from cows given rBST is no different than milk from cows not given this hormone," says Marchman. "Yet companies advertising 'no hormone' milk are charging as much as a dollar more per carton. That's outrageous, given that they are clearly attempting to get consumers, including low-income people with limited resources, to pay more for something that is of no more nutritional value – or safer—than milk that costs less.

"Not only does this deceptive practice impose a needless financial burden on low-income consumers, it's generating unnecessary confusion and anxiety," Marchman adds. "It presents a very unwelcome dilemma for our constituency: either pay more for safe milk, or buy what you can afford and risk 'hormones in your milk.'"

Marchman contends the deceptive practice "cheats consumers and raises unwarranted fears. I strongly encourage the agency to exercise its regulatory authority in taking strong action against dairy processors that are putting profits over people, and scaring consumers about a product so essential to the health of low-income America."

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