Montana livestock board keeps milk freshness ruleThe Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana Board of Livestock voted unanimously to continue its requirement that milk sold in Montana be marked with a "sell-by" date no more than 12 days after it was pasteurized, executive secretary Christian McKay said.
The board's decision Wednesday went against a hearing examiner's finding last October that there was no health reason for the 12-day "sell-by" date. A 21-day "use-by" date is common in other states.
Attorney John Sullivan of Helena said the 12-day rule results in the "waste and destruction of perfectly good milk" and he recommended that milk processors be allowed to set their sell-by or use-by dates, based on their own testing of how long their milk stayed fresh.
He said the rule effectively prohibits milk from being sold for 43 percent of the time during which it is still fresh and of good quality.
Proponents argued Montana customers are accustomed to the 12-day rule.
"In this case, there were milk processors on both sides, milk distributors on both sides, retailers on both sides and consumers on both sides," McKay told Lee Newspapers of Montana.
The board's decision followed a 2008 lawsuit by Core-Mark International, a Spokane, Wash.-based food and beverage distributor that sought to have Montana's "sell-by" rule declared unconstitutional.
In 2002, Inland Northwest Dairies asked the Livestock Department to allow "dual dating" of milk produced at its Spokane, Wash., plant for distribution in Montana. The board agreed, as long as it removed milk from the shelves after its "sell-by" date.
Six years later, the board rescinded the exemption. Core-Mark, which handled the distribution of Inland's milk in Montana, filed its lawsuit.
Core-Mark and the Livestock Department agreed to settle the federal case out of court by having the state agency conduct a hearing on whether to amend or repeal the 12-day rule.
Six-days of hearings were held before Sullivan in 2010. He issued his recommendation last fall.
One board member made a motion Wednesday to again adopt a "dual dating" rule, but it died when no one seconded it.
A phone message left with Core-Mark seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.