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CINCINNATI -- The Kroger Co., operator of 2,486 grocery and multi-department stores and 782 convenience stores based here, and chemical company Monsanto are in a state-by-state debate concerning how milk should be labeled in Kroger stores, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Kroger wants its milk products in more than 3,200 groceries and convenience stores to display a label stating that milk produced and sold by the company’s dairy plants is free of a growth hormone produced by Monsanto called Posilac or rBST, the report stated.
However, Monsanto opposes the label, claiming it is disparaging to a legal and appropriate additive, the report stated. The company has fought labeling plans in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Utah, and maintains that if Kroger is permitted to use the label, the company will have no way to defend claims that the bovine supplement is unsafe, according to the report.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in the country, Monsanto spokesperson Lori Hoag told the paper.
"There is no difference in the milk," said Hoag. "There is absolutely no difference in the milk."
Kroger stated that the label comes from increasing demand from consumers.
"No.1, rBST isn't there -- isn't in the milk," Meghan Glynn, Kroger spokeswoman, told the paper. "And there's increasing customer interest in this issue. We are getting a lot of calls on this."
Kroger was required to change its labels after state Gov. Ted Strickland issued an emergency order in February to prevent the retailer from using the label, the report stated.
Kroger proposed a two-part label, with one line stating that the milk came from cows that were not treated with artificial bovine growth hormone, and another line in smaller print that explained that the FDA had found that the hormone rBST was safe, the report stated.
"Let's be clear about one thing: The reason why processors are marketing products with absence claims is simply because consumers are demanding it," International Dairy Food Association executive Jerry Slominski told the paper. "If you don't believe me, just ask parents who buy milk for their children if they prefer milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial hormones."
Both sides wait as regulators consider the issue, while the label is absent from Kroger's milk products. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has asked the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review to endorse its decision to allow the label. A hearing is scheduled for March 31, the report stated.