Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/26/1999 03:25 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 that." 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 information. 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 used." 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 studies. 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 IGF-1. 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: Janice: 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 language. 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 hormones. 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 under." 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 business-wise. Number 1733 CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if Ms. Adair would prefer to see the sentence Representative Murkowski referred to on page 3, Version I, deleted. 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 you." CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG confirmed there were no questions for Ms. Carr. The chairman indicated HB 110 would be held over.