Pennsylvania milk labeling bill heads to Gov. Wolf’s desk

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A bill to change the way milk is labeled in Pennsylvania is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

Senate Bill 434, introduced by Sen. Elder Vogel, R-New Sewickley, passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives June 22.

Right now, milk processed in Pennsylvania must be labeled with a “sell by” date of 17 days from the date of pasteurization. Pennsylvania is one of only three states that has a fixed code for its milk labeling. 

The bill would allow processors to apply with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to exceed the 17-day code. It would also set up testing requirements and standards, including dairy laboratory criteria, bacterial testing of samples and continued periodic testing, which must be met for milk processors to receive department approval.   

The bill has bipartisan support. It passed the House 201-1, with only Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, voting against it. The Senate unanimously approved it.

If Wolf signs the bill into law, approved processors could use the language “best if used by” and a date that exceeds 17 days after pasteurization. The Pennsylvania State Grange released a statement urging Wolf to sign the bill that would make Pennsylvania milk more competitive nationally. 

The small change in how milk is labeled would allow Pennsylvania processors to sell milk to national food suppliers and wholesalers, who typically require a longer “sell by” date interval, Vogel said. 

“Consumers rank freshness, as determined by the date code indicated, as the most important attribute when purchasing milk,” said Vogel, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, in a statement.

“The current 17-day requirement is not realistic when it comes down to milk’s actual shelf life. In addition, it makes it impossible for processors to bid to provide milk to those who want to sell through national food suppliers and wholesalers.”

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