Group Seeks Disclosure on Use of Cow Hormone : Health: Coalition says the state is violating the law by not tracking sales of the drug. Agriculture officials say there is no danger and they are following the rules.


A coalition of consumer and environmental groups complained Wednesday that the Wilson Administration has violated state law by refusing to require disclosure of the use of a new synthetic growth hormone in milk production.

Calling the hormone “extraordinarily controversial,” the coalition demanded in a petition that the California Department of Food and Agriculture comply with the law, which it said required the agency to track all sales of livestock drugs having a “hormone-like action.”

The coalition said the new drug, commonly known as Posilac and mostly in use in Southern California, is clearly a hormone within the meaning of the law. The state’s tracking of its sales, the group said, would provide a way for consumers to determine which dairies use the drug. Labeling of Posilac on milk cartons is not required.


“The CDFA has done everything it can to make it impossible for consumers to just say no to milk produced with synthetic hormones,” said Harry Snyder, director of Consumers Union’s West Coast office.

The complaint produced angry responses from state officials as well as several industry organizations. They accused the Consumers Union of attempting to spread fear among consumers about the safety of milk.

Food and Agriculture Secretary Henry J. Voss, charging that the coalition has “told half-truths,” said his agency is required to track and make public the sales of livestock hormone drugs, but only those found to “have an adverse biological effect on humans or animals.”

“Even though Posilac is a protein hormone, it does not meet the criteria set by CDFA and FDA of restricted hormones, those which might be dangerous to the health of livestock or humans,” Voss said.

Posilac, approved for use by the federal Food and Drug Administration this year, is injected in cows to increase their milk production.

Consumers Union’s complaint to the state agency is the group’s latest move in a long-running battle over the regulation of milk and milk production. The organization, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, is the only consumer group to consistently focus attention on milk producers, an industry that Snyder contends is more often protected rather than scrutinized by its regulators.


Consumers Union was joined in the complaint by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, a farmers organization, and the California Dairy Campaign, an environmental group.

Jeffrey Nedelman, of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, said health studies on the hormone had found its use to be “safe for consumers and cows.”

“Calls for tracking and publishing (Posilac) sales information are nothing more than a thinly disguised effort to mislead consumers that the safety of (Posilac) or the safety of milk and milk products from (Posilac-treated) cows is somehow in question,” said Juanita Duggan, vice president for the National Food Processors Assn.

Consumers Union’s Snyder acknowledged that there is no evidence that milk produced by cows injected with the hormone is unsafe, but he said the drug’s long-term effects on cattle and humans has not been fully tested. He said consumers have a right to know if the milk they are drinking was produced by cows treated with the hormone.

Snyder contended that health studies have shown a huge increase in udder infections among cows treated with Posilac.

He said if there is a mass outbreak of infections it would most likely cause more “puss and bacteria” to be contained in the milk. Although that would not make the milk unsafe, he said, it would lower its quality.


But Tom McDermott, director of biotechnology and communications for the St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., which manufactures the drug, said an FDA panel has considered the infection issue and did not find a link between the drug and udder infections.

“The bottom line is Consumers Union is quite wrong on this issue,” McDermott said.

Furthermore, he said any increase in udder infections in California would be detected by milk inspections that could cause immediate sanctions on producers.