Woolworths agrees to amend its rBST milk labelling

Woolworths has announced that it is in the process of changing its milk packaging labels regarding rBST, and thus bring itself in line with dairy regulations.

“We have agreed in the interim to remove the rBST statements from our packaging with stickers and amended our labels,” the company said in a statement.

Woolworths eliminated the use of rBST from Ayrshire dairy cows in 2000 in response to customer concerns.

BST is a naturally occurring protein hormone produced by dairy cows to regulate their milk production.

BST is present in all milk. BST can be artificially manufactured and used to treat dairy cows to increase their milk production. This is known as rBST. 

“We independently audit our suppliers to ensure that they do not administer the artificial hormone (rBST) to dairy cows. As a result, a large proportion of Woolworths dairy products were initially labelled as ‘rBST free’”, Woolworths said.

“We include rBST statements on our labels to inform our customers, but only where the production process is strictly audited to ensure the factual accuracy of the statement.”

Woolworths is placing a sticker over the rBST information as an interim measure, while the statement is being removed.

“Customers are assured that we’re changing the label for now and not the milk. We look forward to working with the authorities to update the packaging with alternative wording,” said Zyda Rylands, MD of Foods at Woolworths.

FOODStuff SA asked top food industry attornery, Janusz Walusz of Hahn & Hahn, to put this development in context: 

“The issue is that rBST cannot be measured in the milk and all Woolworths (or anyone else) can say is that they audit their suppliers to make sure they don’t inject cows with rBST.

“The Dept of Agriculture (DAFF) has stated over and over that it does not permit this claim to be made on milk as there is no way of auditing or verifying it and it is not provided for in the Dairy Regulations. Most (all?) other retailers and producers removed this claim/statement from their milk, including Pick n Pay a few years ago, but Woolworths ignored DAFF’s opinion.

“Of course, if you claim rBST free and its not, you would also contravene the CPA!

“It comes down to one law for all and everyone needs to comply.”