HARRISBURG, PA — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding this week announced that Pennsylvania milk processors could seize an opportunity to rebrand whole milk, thanks to flexibility in federal milk labeling requirements. At the request of the industry, the Bureau of Food Safety issued a guidance memo clarifying Food and Drug Administration requirements and highlighting the opportunity to label Whole Milk as 3.25 percent fat.
“We’re living in a society where people want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it,” said Agriculture Secretary Redding. “This memo provides clarity to the industry on labeling requirements and offers an opportunity to rebrand Pennsylvania’s state beverage.”
Whole Milk has traditionally been labeled as such because it is unaltered from the cow before processing, no fat has been removed from the naturally occurring average of 3.5 percent – it is whole. Unaltered or non-reduced fat milk can contain anywhere from 3.25 to 18 percent milkfat; the Food and Drug Administration requires labels to be accurate as to what is contained. Processors interested in rebranding their Whole Milk with actual percentage of fat will need to reevaluate their milkfat percentage closely to ensure it is accurately reflected on the label.
“Recently, rebranding proponents requested that Secretary Redding and I advocate for labeling changes. I’ve long supported any initiative that will help our dairy farmers succeed,” said State Senator Judy Schwank, minority chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “This is a step forward and, truly, the result of grassroot efforts, including ‘baleboards.’ It is my hope that this new labeling opportunity, along with an educational campaign for consumers, results in whole milk being reintroduced to glasses around the Commonwealth.”
The Pennsylvania Farm Bill’s Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program (PDIP) has made available funds for marketing and promotion campaigns for Pennsylvania dairy. To date, $828,956 has been awarded for 11 state-specific marketing campaigns through PDIP. The Commonwealth Financing Authority has made available a total of $10 million in grants through PDIP for value-added processing, research and development, organic transition assistance, and marketing and promotion.
“While this clarification may offer new opportunity to the industry to possibly improve their market for whole milk, we’re hopeful that they fully realize the need for a re-education of consumers,” added Redding. “For generations, consumers have been trained to look for skim, one percent, two percent, or whole.
“A label change without a strong, sustained plan for educating the public could backfire if consumers don’t see whole milk and don’t understand the new 3% label. There has been growth in the fluid whole milk category in recent years, and we don’t want this attempt to improve the market to end in a loss for Pennsylvania dairies as a result of lacking consumer education.”
Processors interested in making labeling changes should contact the Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services to make sure potential changes do not conflict with federal labeling regulations.
For more information about the PA Farm Bill.
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