Twenty food companies have told a consumer group that they won’t use milk or meat from cloned livestock.
The companies, including Smithfield Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc., were responding to a survey conducted by the Center for Food Safety, a consumer group that opposes animal cloning.
Polls have shown most consumers are uncomfortable with the idea of eating products from cloned livestock, whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons. At the same time, products from the offspring of cloned animals are trickling into the food supply.
Currently, the best way for consumers to avoid such foods is to eat organic food.
Basil Maglaris, a spokesman for Kraft, the U.S.’s largest food company by revenue and a major cheese producer, said the company has told suppliers it will accept only ingredients from conventional animals. “The surveys we’ve seen indicate that consumers aren’t receptive to ingredients from cloned animals,” he said. The pledge now only applies to cloned animals; the company says it will continue to monitor consumer acceptance of products from clones’ offspring.
Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., have also banned the use of cloned animals in food products. Many haven’t made a similar pledge to avoid using food from the conventionally bred offspring of clones, however, partly because no one is tracking the offspring.
A few have made such a pledge. The center said eight companies it surveyed said they wouldn’t knowingly use food from the offspring of clones. These include Seattle-area organic retail cooperative PCC Natural Markets and Unilever’s Vermont-based ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which is pushing the government to create a national registry for clones and their offspring.
Andy Barker, social-mission coordinator at Ben & Jerry’s, said the company isn’t planning to advertise its clone-free status on its ice-cream cartons. It uses groups like the Center for Food Safety to publicize its status.
The International Dairy Foods Association, a trade group for dairy suppliers and manufacturers, said it isn’t ready to embrace products made from cloned animals or their offspring. “Our concern is what impact it would have on the market,” said spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong. “We don’t want to see people not buy milk.”
After the Food and Drug Administration ruled in January that products from cloned cattle, swine, goats and their offspring “are as safe to eat as the food we eat every day,” U.S. regulators quietly withdrew their request for the food industry to voluntarily refrain from selling milk and meat from offspring of clones. A similar request for products made from the cloned animals themselves remains in place.
Clones — at about $20,000 a copy — are too expensive to be slaughtered for food themselves, but some ranchers said they have sold clones’ offspring for food.
The Center for Food Safety began surveying the industry after the FDA denied its petition in January asking for mandatory labeling of clones and their offspring, as well as the regulation of animal cloning as a “new animal drug,” which would require pre-market approval for safety before cloning can be used on animals. The FDA said the requests didn’t meet the requirements for such actions.
The FDA “has denied the desire and will of the consumers and just about all food processors,” said Joseph Mendelson, the center’s legal director.