Last year, the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements went into effect, mandating country of origin labeling of meats, produce and nuts. Now, these regulations may extend into the dairy sector as well. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chair of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food, Nutrition, and Family Farms, Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Dairy Country of Origin Labeling Act (S.1783), which would retain the exemption for processed foods, but require COOL laws for dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter.

In a Brown press release, Feingold stated: “Consumers looking for premium Wisconsin- and U.S.-made dairy products should be able to quickly and easily identify them in stores. With the discovery last year [2008] of widespread use of melamine in Chinese dairy products, consumers deserve to know whether the milk used to produce the dairy products they buy meets the high safety standards used in the U.S.”

Despite good intentions to make the U.S. food supply safer, the legislation has received some negative feedback from the dairy industry, which has struggled through the past year. Jerry suzanne's specialtiesSlominski, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for the International Dairy Foods Association, said, “This legislation is misguided, because it would do nothing to help America's dairy farmers. Imposing additional labeling mandates on dairy products, which are not imposed on other processed foods, will reduce demand for dairy products and encourage food manufacturers to substitute vegetable-based or other protein ingredients instead of dairy ingredients.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2010