Jan. 29 2013 08:08 AM

The International Dairy Foods Association plans to introduce federal legislation to update some of these dairy standards.

"The current formal rule-making approach required to change dairy (product) standards is cumbersome, inefficient and resource intensive, so the FDA simply throws up its hands and does nothing," Connie Tipton said to attendees at the International Dairy Foods Association's Dairy Forum. "In fact, there have been no changes to any standards since 1998 . . . not a single one in 15 years," said the president and CEO of the nation's largest dairy-processor organization.

As a point of reference, the federal government created food standards in 1938 to prevent fraud and to help make purchasing decisions easier for consumers.

"Most of the dairy standards were promulgated much later -- in the late '70s," noted Tipton. "Currently, there are 97 federal standards of identity for various dairy products out of a total of 262 standards for all foods, including dairy. By my math, that comes out to a disproportionate 37 percent. Most of these standards are long past their sell-by dates and need to be pulled from the shelves," she quipped. "Yes, we need clear boundaries. But within those boundaries we need the ability to improve our products using 21st century expertise and technology.

"To start the thawing-out process, we will propose to draft federal legislation that allows meaningful innovation without changing the characterizing ingredients in the food," Tipton told Dairy Forum attendees. "With such a change, dairy companies could use safe and suitable alternative ingredients and processes and still market their products within the existing dairy food categories that consumers have come to know and recognize."

While a good idea, she noted that this and other issues may face an uphill battle.

"President Obama made it clear in his inaugural address that he wants more government," said Tipton. "There will be some changes in key cabinet positions. That's to be expected in a President's second term," Tipton told those attending the Dairy Forum in Orlando, Fla. "Although the players may change, don't expect any major change in policy direction.

"That likely means more regulations for the food industry coming out of familiar departments and agencies such as USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and FTC (Federal Trade Commission)," she told the audience, which was a mix of dairy processors from around the globe along with some domestic dairy producers. "That likely means more rules for school meals, more labeling regulations and possible restrictions on marketing products to children. And the dietary guidelines five-year update has already begun."

Not a fan of federal milk marketing orders, Tipton also shared her take on them with the audience.

"I believe it's time for our industry to come together in support of phasing out government classified pricing and pooling," she said in reference to federal milk marketing orders. "Certainly, common sense and analysis tell us there will be a few bumps in the road as we move away from government set prices. But the industry would adjust and learn, just as many other industries that have lived through price deregulation can attest."

To read Connie Tipton's entire 5,900-plus word presentation, click the link.