Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/26/1999 03:25 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 110 - SALE/LABELING OF MEAT/MILK PRODUCTS                                                                                    
Number 0456                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG announced the committee's next order of business                                                              
is HB 110, "An Act relating to the sale, offer to sell, and                                                                     
labeling of fluid milk, meat, and meat products."                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS, the bill sponsor, noted almost everything                                                                
controversial had been removed from the legislation, but there is                                                               
still something else.                                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG questioned if the committee had a CS [committee                                                               
substitute] to adopt.                                                                                                           
Number 0502                                                                                                                     
PETE FELLMAN, Researcher for Representative John Harris, Alaska                                                                 
State Legislature, came forward.  He confirmed that Version I is                                                                
the working version.                                                                                                            
There was some discussion among the committee regarding the                                                                     
location of the proposed committee substitute in the bill packets.                                                              
Number 0558                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO made a motion to adopt the Version I proposed                                                             
committee substitute (CS) for HB 110, labeled 1-LS0408\I,                                                                       
Bannister, 4/20/99, as a working document.  There being no                                                                      
objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked Pete Fellman to explain the changes                                                                     
reflected in Version I.                                                                                                         
MR. FELLMAN explained that any references to the meat and milk                                                                  
products were removed in order to reduce some of the confusion and                                                              
concerns.  The concerns regarding the ten percent ownership and the                                                             
bottling company were also removed; therefore, the legislation will                                                             
now fall under existing statute regarding enforcement.  No changes                                                              
were adopted as far as the labeling that refers to bST [bovine                                                                  
somatotropin], rbST [recombinant bovine somatotropin], or rBGH                                                                  
[recombinant bovine growth hormone].                                                                                            
Number 0635                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI questioned if the legislation contains                                                                 
language recommend by the department [Department of Environmental                                                               
Conservation (DEC)] regarding the disclaimer.                                                                                   
MR. FELLMAN replied that the language does not include a                                                                        
disclaimer.  He explained that after a lot of research it was                                                                   
determined that if the disclaimer language was included, it would                                                               
actually be considered mislabeling.  Current information indicates                                                              
that there is a difference in milk that comes from cows injected                                                                
with bST.  Mr. Fellman stated, "The disclaimer says that there is                                                               
no difference in milk, when, in fact, that was written in 1993.                                                                 
... Since then, the technology has grown and has changed, so now                                                                
they can indeed test milk and indicate that there is a difference.                                                              
The difference itself is not the bST.  The difference, itself, is                                                               
the IGF-1 [insulin-like growth factor 1], ... and they can test for                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE wondered if IGF-1 was a hormone, and asked how                                                             
a hormone was made.                                                                                                             
Number 0719                                                                                                                     
MR. FELLMAN explained that when a cow is given rBGH, the levels of                                                              
IGF-1 the cow synthesizes increase.  The difference in levels of                                                                
IGF-1 between cows that have not been given bST and those that have                                                             
been given bST can be measured.                                                                                                 
MR. FELLMAN referred to research by Samuel S. Epstein [Samuel S.                                                                
Epstein, MD, Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of                                                                 
Illinois School of Public Health; Chairman, Cancer Prevention                                                                   
Coalition] included in the bill packet.  Mr. Epstein has shown that                                                             
can be proven.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS commented, "I know you brought along some                                                                 
samples of what other states have allowed. ... I know one of the                                                                
concerns of the department at the last hearing was that, what                                                                   
Representative Murkowski just said, that there wasn't enough                                                                    
disclaimer in there.  ... Other states, it seems like, have-how                                                                 
many states were there? 26?"                                                                                                    
Number 0794                                                                                                                     
MR. FELLMAN replied that there are 26 states.  He has also included                                                             
in the bill packet a list of all the companies processing milk                                                                  
today, some of which do not use any disclaimers.  Mr. Fellman                                                                   
indicated he found two examples of labeled milk products at the                                                                 
grocery store here in Juneau.  These two companies do not use any                                                               
disclaimers at all, but simply label their milk "hormone free" or                                                               
"no hormones used."                                                                                                             
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked that the record show Mr. Fellman provided                                                               
visual aids [Organic Valley half-and-half, Wisconsin; Horizon                                                                   
Organic yogurt, Boulder, Colorado].  He commented the competitors                                                               
are already sending these products into the state, asking if that                                                               
is correct.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE agreed; the companies are claiming that their                                                              
products are organic.                                                                                                           
Number 0840                                                                                                                     
MR. FELLMAN indicated the labeling is "no hormones used."  Under                                                                
the 1993 federal guidelines they would not be able to do that.  The                                                             
other thing Mr. Fellman noted is that these are just guidelines.                                                                
Referring to page 2 of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),                                                                  
Department of Health and Human Services, handout included in the                                                                
bill packet, Mr. Fellman indicated the FDA has given itself some                                                                
real leeway.  The guideline is not a law; it's a recommendation for                                                             
the states.  Some leeway has also been left in this so that the                                                                 
agency cannot be held accountable as technology or things change.                                                               
Mr. Fellman referred the language at the bottom of the FDA's Docket                                                             
No. 94D-0025, "Interim Guidance on the Voluntary Labeling of Milk                                                               
and Milk Products From Cows That Have Not Been Treated With                                                                     
Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin".  [The paragraph Mr. Fellman                                                                   
referred to on page 2 of this document read:                                                                                    
     The guidance presented here reflects FDA's interpretation                                                                  
     of the act and may be relevant to States' interpretation                                                                   
     of their own similar statutes.  This document does not                                                                     
     bind FDA or an State, and it does not create or confer                                                                     
     any rights, privileges, benefits, or immunities for or on                                                                  
     any persons.  Furthermore, this document reflects FDA's                                                                    
     current views on this matter. This document reflects                                                                       
     FDA's current views on this matter.  FDA may reconsider                                                                    
     its position at a later date in light of any comments it                                                                   
     receives on this guidance document.]                                                                                       
MR. FELLMAN explained this is why FDA has not come out against                                                                  
these individual companies that are labeling milk "no hormones                                                                  
used."  He confirmed for Representative Harris that this is the                                                                 
information from the FDA.  The other information they have was                                                                  
submitted by DEC and was derived from this 1993 FDA guideline.                                                                  
Number 0941                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS asked if Mr. Fellman had received any other                                                               
MR. FELLMAN answered in negative.  He indicated he had been unable                                                              
to contact the FDA by telephone.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said, "Looking at that label, they say just                                                                
plain and flatly 'no hormones used.'"                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG noted the label on the Organic Valley                                                                         
half-and-half from Wisconsin says "No antibiotics or hormones ever                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE wondered if the ability to say "not treated                                                                
with rBGH" is being established into statute.                                                                                   
MR. FELLMAN affirmed that.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE questioned if it would be better to say "no                                                                
hormones ever used" or "we're not using rBGH".  He thinks the                                                                   
second language might make other people wonder what other hormones                                                              
might be used.                                                                                                                  
MR. FELLMAN agreed.  The first bill submitted, which Mr. Fellman                                                                
said was a good bill, where it simply said "no hormones used."                                                                  
However, in an attempt to clarify things, they had focused on that                                                              
specific hormone.  That is the specific hormone FDA has laid out in                                                             
its guidelines.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if he could use the cream in his coffee.                                                             
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG stated that he would defer to the state of                                                                    
Wisconsin who seems to have a vested interest in dairy products.                                                                
He indicated Wisconsin's labeling appears to be the least                                                                       
comprehensive and, he would think, most beneficial to the state's                                                               
dairy farmers.                                                                                                                  
Number 1058                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted she has not had a chance to read Dr.                                                             
Epstein's very current, March 22, report.  Representative Murkowski                                                             
referred to discussion with the department [DEC] at the previous                                                                
hearing, where the department indicated the disclaimer should be                                                                
included.  She wondered if Dr. Epstein's research is something they                                                             
should be relying on as statutes are being crafted if it is just                                                                
one scientist's opinion.  Representative Murkowski questioned what                                                              
harm it does to say the scientific evidence is not clear.  She                                                                  
mentioned discussion on the House floor on April 23 and 26, where                                                               
the legislature chose to disagree with a certain study published in                                                             
a certain journal.                                                                                                              
Number 1148                                                                                                                     
MR. FELLMAN directed Representative Murkowski to the references                                                                 
that Mr. Epstein has cited.  He pointed out that Mr. Epstein has                                                                
cited many concerns dating as far back as 1982 and from many                                                                    
different sources of research.  Mr. Fellman indicated the problem                                                               
with including the disclaimer is that it is not true; it can be                                                                 
proven that there is a difference between cows treated with the                                                                 
hormone and those that are not.  Another issue revolves around                                                                  
advertising.  The more words used, the less effective the                                                                       
advertisement.  Mr. Fellman stated that an advertisement such as                                                                
"note: this is from cows not treated with bST or rBGH" is simple,                                                               
clear and does falls within the federal guidelines.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted that although the FDA is not                                                                     
necessarily the final word on any of this, she mentioned Dr.                                                                    
Epstein's mention that "the FDA has ignored such evidence reported                                                              
by the author in peer review scientific publications over the last                                                              
decade."  This makes her wonder what is going on between Dr.                                                                    
Epstein and the FDA.  However, she pointed to what she terms a very                                                             
strange statement, "It should be further emphasized that senior FDA                                                             
officials and industry consultants are members of Codex, which                                                                  
meets in secrecy and relies on unpublished industry assurances of                                                               
safety."  Representative Murkowski indicated it sounds like Dr.                                                                 
Epstein is trying to establish some kind of a conspiracy here.  She                                                             
commented she is not asking the questions to be obstreperous, she                                                               
indicated she just wants to make sure "we don't get ourselves                                                                   
sideways on this because we have taken one individual's study and                                                               
said, 'By God, times have changed and Epstein is right.'"  It is                                                                
her understanding that FDA has not signed off on Dr. Epstein's                                                                  
Number 1330                                                                                                                     
MR. FELLMAN reiterated that Mr. Epstein's study is a composite of                                                               
many different studies.  He pointed out that rBGH has not been                                                                  
approved in Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, The                                                                  
Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, et cetera.                                                             
He wondered, if one man [Mr. Epstein] has it out for the FDA, why                                                               
then do all these other countries have a concern with rBGH and                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS said it seemed to him that the department                                                                 
wanted to include language which said that it has not been proven,                                                              
similar to the way that tobacco manufacturers have on their surgeon                                                             
general's warning indicating that smoking has been proven to be                                                                 
harmful.  He believes that this has been stripped down to the point                                                             
where all that is left is a statement on these products that says                                                               
"milk in this product is not from cows treated with rBGH" or "milk                                                              
in this product is from cows not treated with rbST".  He feels that                                                             
the statement is brought down to a very basic level and is not                                                                  
misleading.  It is his impression that the more language which is                                                               
included, the more confusing the statement can be.                                                                              
Number 1429                                                                                                                     
JANICE ADAIR, Director, Division of Environmental Health,                                                                       
Department of Environmental Conservation, came forward.  She                                                                    
indicated she had provided an e-mail message to Representative                                                                  
Rokeberg from Robert Hennes.  Mr. Hennes is from the FDA's Region                                                               
10 and does the Grade A milk review for the state of Alaska.  Mr.                                                               
Hennes' e-mail read:                                                                                                            
     After calling FDA's Division of Food Labeling, the                                                                         
     interim rbST milk labeling policy of 1994, a copy                                                                          
     previously provided to you, is still the guidance                                                                          
     provided by FDA.                                                                                                           
     Without the qualifying statement, i.e. "No significant                                                                     
     difference has been shown between milk derived from                                                                        
     rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows".  it [It] may                                                                      
     imply that milk from untreated cows is safer or of higher                                                                  
     quality than milk from treated cows.  Such an implication                                                                  
     would provide labeling that would be determined to be                                                                      
     false and misleading.  Therefore, without the qualifying                                                                   
     statement, FDA would determine the labeling to be false                                                                    
     and the milk product to be misbranded.                                                                                     
     If you have any further questions or concerns, please                                                                      
     feel free to contact me.                                                                                                   
MS. ADAIR stated it is her concern that milk producers in Alaska                                                                
who label their product without this qualifying statement would be                                                              
precluded from selling their milk to the military or to schools                                                                 
using federal dollars to buy the milk because FDA would determine                                                               
the milk to be misbranded.  She commented, "We are precluded in                                                                 
this bill from requiring any additional language, and if that's                                                                 
necessary to keep the markets open for the milk, my concern is that                                                             
we're kind of cutting them off at the pass.  The military and                                                                   
schools represent two of the biggest customers for the two dairy                                                                
processors in Alaska.  If FDA, until they change their policy,                                                                  
which, as was noted, it is a policy,  it's not a regulation, but                                                                
FDA is terrible about regulating through guidance.  They do this to                                                             
us all the time.  If this is what they want to see on it, if it's                                                               
not on it, then ... federal money can't be used to buy the milk.                                                                
And that's our concern."                                                                                                        
Number 1547                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI referred to page 3, the end of line 1 to                                                               
line 3, of Version I, "Milk products offered for wholesale or                                                                   
retail sale in this state are not required to contain any further                                                               
label information related to the use of rBGH or rBST in milk                                                                    
products."  Representative Murkowski suggested eliminating the                                                                  
entire sentence so that any Alaskan producer that wanted to sell to                                                             
the military or to the schools could use the disclaimer language;                                                               
this would get them past the FDA issue.  She indicated other                                                                    
farmers or producers could chose to either use or not use the FDA                                                               
MS. ADAIR agreed that would be the easiest fix.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO asked Representative Harris if there is a                                                                 
penalty for a milk producer whose products are found to contain                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS answered in the negative, adding, "It's a                                                                 
misdemeanor class, whatever, it falls along under this.  It doesn't                                                             
state it in here, but it states it in other statutes it falls                                                                   
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG inquired, "So, within the Chapter, there's a                                                                  
misdemeanor (indisc.) if there's non-compliance?"                                                                               
MS. ADAIR stated that there is in existing statute.                                                                             
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if the department verifies this.                                                                        
MS. ADAIR answered yes.                                                                                                         
Number 1636                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO asked what happens if there is a naturally                                                                
occurring trace of a hormone found and the milk producer or farmer                                                              
does not know about it.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS believed there would be a penalty.  He                                                                    
indicated he thought the dairy farmer or producer would have to be                                                              
very, very sure that they don't have that before signing the                                                                    
affidavit.  Representative Harris further indicated he did not                                                                  
think there would be a problem with the restriction on sales to the                                                             
federal government the department had mentioned; the producer or                                                                
farmer would chose to remove the labeling if they wished to do                                                                  
this.  He noted the labeling is not mandatory.  If someone wishes                                                               
to label in this manner, these are the certain guidelines to follow                                                             
and that someone cannot falsely advertise.  He indicated he thought                                                             
a prudent business person would make the decision that is best                                                                  
Number 1733                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if Ms. Adair would prefer to see the                                                                    
sentence Representative Murkowski referred to on page 3, Version I,                                                             
MS. ADAIR answered in the affirmative.                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG commented that that makes it entirely                                                                         
discretionary on the part of the milk producer.                                                                                 
MS. ADAIR stated, "And however the labeling requirements are                                                                    
changed in the future, then we can adjust."                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if that would give the department more                                                                  
comfort with the bill.                                                                                                          
MS. ADAIR answered in the affirmative.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS requested an at-ease.                                                                                     
Number 1758                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG called an at-ease from 3:57 p.m.  The committee                                                               
came back to order at 4:01 p.m.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS requested that the legislation be held until                                                              
the next scheduled meeting.                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG announced the committee would hold the                                                                        
legislation over at the sponsor's request.  He indicated the                                                                    
committee would proceed to the next bill.                                                                                       
Number 1776                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG called an at-ease at 4:02 p.m.  The committee                                                                 
came back to order at 4:03 p.m.                                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG noted he understands there is someone wishing to                                                              
testify on HB 110 from Anchorage via teleconference, Margaret Carr.                                                             
Number 1798                                                                                                                     
MARGARET CARR testified via teleconference from Anchorage in                                                                    
support of HB 110.  Ms. Carr noted she is representing herself.                                                                 
She provided the following testimony:                                                                                           
     "I am here to urge you to support HB 110.  I think HB
     110, allowing the labeling of dairy products free of                                                                       
     recombinant bovine growth hormone, ... will support my                                                                     
     right and the right of all consumers to know what goes                                                                     
     into those products we buy.  There's still controversy                                                                     
     out there.  I've done a bit of reading on recombinant                                                                      
     bovine growth hormone and I believe that there's still                                                                     
     unanswered questions about the effects of this synthetic                                                                   
     hormone on the health of cows and on [the] health of                                                                       
     people, and I think the least we can do is have the                                                                        
     choice to ... buy products that are free of rBGH.  And I                                                                   
     think a simple statement on the product is simply                                                                          
     granting us the right to get that information.  Thank                                                                      
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG confirmed there were no questions for Ms. Carr.                                                               
The chairman indicated HB 110 would be held over.                                                                               

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