Despite pleas from nearly every segment of the dairy industry-some simply cautionary, but others marked by dismay and appall-FDA has given the green light to allowing cloned milk and meat into the food chain.

Table is Set for Milk from Cloned Cows

Despite pleas from nearly every segment of the dairy industry-some simply cautionary, but others marked by dismay and appall-FDA has given the green light to allowing cloned milk and meat into the food chain. While some in the industry are partially satisfied with an ancillary message asking for the continuation of voluntary moratorium, others say the cloning decision is the final straw for many consumers who no longer have confidence in the government’s ability to protect and regulate the food industry.

“To me, it appears that there is a serious lack of confidence in the FDA risk assessment process,” says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley. “I’d say as many as 20% of consumers no longer have confidence that the FDA can ensure that they have a safe supply of healthy food.”

The Shehadey family, which operates Fresno, Calif.-based Producers Dairy Foods, also issued a statement opposing the cloning of cows for human consumption, and calling the FDA decision “a major mistake.”

IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation have also opposed the measure, saying more time and study are needed, if not on the safety of the food products, then at least on the effects it will have on the domestic milk market and on foreign trade. FDA’s suggestions to the biotech industry to continue the moratorium are also based on the potential consumer backlash and trade implications.

Organic Valley went much further in its statements last month, noting that cloning can bring about mutations, and cause high rates of calf mortality.

Major conventional food companies like Dean Foods and pork producers Smithfield have also said they will not accept raw products produced by clones or their offspring.

Pennsylvania Retreats on rBST Messages

Dairy processors who sell milk with a no-rBST claim can continue to do so in the Keystone state after regulators backed down on a proposal that would have prohibited such claims.

Processors will, however, have until March 1 to secure certified affidavits showing that their milk is indeed produced without the use of the synthetic growth hormone.

The decision to allow hormone-free labeling on milk came after a backlash from consumers and processors, and a position statements from IDFA saying consumers should be able to make a choice, and that the messages from dairies are protected free speech.  A ban on such label statements was set to go into effect Feb. 1.

Wells' Selling Milk and Yogurt Operations

Le MARS, Iowa-Wells’ Dairy, Inc., is getting out of the milk and yogurt business in order to focus solely on ice cream and frozen desserts. Wells said in late December that it was selling its fluid and cultured facility in Le Mars to Dean Foods Co. Last month Wells’ announced that it will sell its Omaha, Neb., yogurt plant to Lala USA.

“Following extensive analysis, we have made a strategic decision to focus all of our efforts and resources on our core business of making quality ice cream,” said Mike Wells, chief executive officer of Wells’ Dairy. “This committed focus puts us in the best position to reach our goal to become a top 3 national brand in ice cream and frozen novelties and to ensure the long-term viability of the company.”

In November Wells’ announced some major changes in its front office with Mike Wells becoming the chief executive and Gary Wells moving to the company’s board of directors.

Over the past two years the Blue Bunny ice cream brand, Wells’ Dairy’s signature brand, has been one of the fastest growing ice cream brands in the nation.

“Blue Bunny ice cream and novelties in our major retailers is already a top 3 brand and in many cases we’re number one, giving us great confidence in our strategic focus,” said Mike Wells. “To achieve success in the ultra-competitive ice cream industry, we must concentrate our sales, marketing and manufacturing efforts on the single focus of making quality ice cream and frozen novelty products for our expanding customer and consumer base.”

Wells’ Dairy is currently working with Dean Foods on the transition plan for the fluid dairy and cultured products facility in Le Mars.

Consumers to Find New Options at Starbucks

Changes in the front office at Starbucks Corp., may be dripping down to coffee houses, with recent reports that the coffee giant will eschew organic milk, and might even offer a $1 cup and free refills.

Starbucks announced a management reshuffle earlier this year, bringing Howard Schultz back into the chief executive position. It also said it would close underperforming U.S. outlets and speed up international growth.

As of the end of January, the company’s entire supply of fluid milk, half and half and whipping cream has been sourced from suppliers that do not use milk produced with rBST. The company is now phasing out organic milk, which had been offered as an option since 2001. It says that now that no-rBST milk is widely available outside of organic milk, it no longer feels the need to stock organic milk.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that increasing competition from fast-food retailers has led Starbucks to experiment with a “short” $1 cup as well as free refills for brewed coffee in its Seattle-area stores.

Lawsuit Attacks Dannon's Probiotic Claims

A California consumer has filed a proposed class-action suit against The Dannon Company, alleging the company’s claims that its probiotic yogurt offers clinically and scientifically-proven health benefits are false.

“Deceptive advertising has enabled Dannon to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ordinary yogurt at inflated prices to responsible, health conscious consumers,” Timothy Blood, the lead attorney handling the case, claimed in a statement issued in late January.

The lawsuit alleges that Dannon’s clinical studies didn’t support marketing claims suggesting DanActive, Activia and Activia Light yogurt products had been proven to regulate one’s digestive system. The suit says the company charged 30% more for its probiotic yogurt and spent more than $100 million in advertising to persuade U.S. consumers of the product’s benefits.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, asks for compensation for U.S. consumers who purchased the products based on the marketing campaign and asks Dannon to launch a new advertising campaign that corrects the record.

Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s senior director of public relations, told the San Francisco Chronicle the company’s claims were sound.

“We stand by the claims of our products and the clinical studies that support them,” Neuwirth said.

Dannon is one of many companies that introduced probiotic foods ranging from breads and cereals to chocolates and cheeses, and some pundits have recently noted that probiotic yogurts are now as trendy as frozen yogurt.