WHAT: California Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments of Out-of-State Dairy Interest's Ongoing Attempt to Lower State's Milk Quality

WHEN: Thursday, September 7, 2000 9 A.M.

WHERE: California Supreme Court
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco

WHO: Michael Boccadoro, Executive Director, Californians for Nutritious Milk
Jo Ann Hattner, Pediatric Dietitian

People of the State of California v. Shamrock Foods Company

The California Supreme Court Justices are set to hear oral arguments in a case that surrounds a ten-year public debate which could have major impacts on the health and well being of California's children, teens and elderly.

In November of 1999, in a major victory for California consumers and public health organizations, the California Supreme Court unanimously agreed to review a controversial Appeal Court's ruling that had effectively nullified the state's milk quality and nutrition standards. This came after California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, backed by some of the state's leading health and nutrition organizations like the California Dietetic Association and the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education, argued persuasively to get the Court to accept the case, over the strong objections of Shamrock Foods Company of Arizona and its astro-turf organization Mad About Milk. Attorney General Lockyer's opening brief stated, "This case will decide the composition of all milk consumed in California. For decades, California has required milk to contain more nutrients, including calcium and protein, than is required for milk sold in the rest of the United States. The higher calcium content of California standard milk is especially important in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Not only is California milk more nutritious, it also has a better taste, which makes it more appealing to consumers."

In an amicus brief submitted to the Court by leading health and nutrition groups including the California Dietetic Association, the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education and Choices for Children, the group stated, "The court of appeal's construction to permit the sale of fluid milk in California that fails to meet the state's 40 year old standards of composition would have the very adverse effects on public health and welfare that the standards were designed to prevent."

The case stems from a Fourth District Court of Appeals decision that overruled a lower court that found Shamrock Foods Company, primarily an institutional food provider, had engaged in unlawful and unfair business practices under Business and Professional Code section 17200 and had repeatedly and knowingly sold substandard milk to unsuspecting preschools and elder care facilities throughout Southern California. The lower court also determined that these actions were false, deceptive and misleading.

Shamrock's Claims Repeatedly Rejected

Earlier in January of 1999, the United States Supreme Court rejected Shamrock's claims in Federal Court that California's milk quality standards were a barrier to interstate commerce.

Both Shamrock Foods and Mad About Milk have been seeking to lower California's milk quality and nutrition standards and along the way have been misleading California consumers and the media. For the past 38 years Californians have benefited from drinking the highest quality, most nutritious milk in the nation. This is accomplished through the natural fortification of milk with non-fat milk solids or condensed skim milk. In addition to the added nutritional benefits, California milk standards offer a higher quality, more consistent, better tasting product. Milk processed under California standards provides California consumers a unique nutritional package -- with up to 33% more calcium than milk processed at the federal standards -- as well as higher levels of other essential vitamins, minerals and protein. Since dairy products contribute about three-quarters of the calcium in the American diet, those most at risk are more likely to meet their needs for this important nutrient by drinking California milk -- especially school children.

Health Groups Support Attorney General Lockyer

Shamrock Foods and Mad About Milk's efforts have been strongly opposed and criticized by California's leading health and nutrition groups such as the California Dietetic Association, the California Department of Health Services and the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education. According to the California Dietetic Association, "We believe the Court of Appeal's decision to allow a lower quality, less nutritious product that does not meet California's existing compositional standards, into our state is a serious threat to the future health of all Californians."

Shamrock Foods and Mad About Milk's efforts to market a lower quality and less nutritious product in our state have also been overwhelming rejected by the State Legislature twice in the past two years. According to the California Department of Health Services, "...lowering calcium in milk may result in increased rates of such chronic diseases as osteoporosis, hypertension and colorectal cancer. Related health care costs to the Department and State will rise significantly in relation to an increase in chronic diseases." The Department concluded, "The Department believes, therefore, that maintaining the higher standard for milk fortification is beneficial from a public health perspective."

Californians for Nutritious Milk is a coalition of leading health, nutrition and education professionals and dairy producers and processors working to ensure that Californians continue to drink the highest quality most nutritious milk in the nation. For more information visit www.californiamilk.com or call Mike Bowman at 916/441-3617.