WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's biggest milk company, Dean Foods, said Thursday it will refuse milk from cloned cows.
The Food and Drug Administration gave preliminary approval to meat and milk from cloned animals and could grant final approval by the end of the year. Federal scientists say there is virtually no difference between clones and conventional cows, pigs or goats.
Smaller companies such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Organic Valley previously have said they oppose milk from clones. Dallas-based Dean Foods is a $10 billion company that owns Land OLakes and Horizon Organic, among dozens of other brands. In a statement issued Thursday, the company said its customers and consumers don't want milk from cloned animals.
``Numerous surveys have shown that Americans are not interested in buying dairy products that contain milk from cloned cows and Dean Foods is responding to the needs of our consumers,'' the statement said.
Milk companies worry that concern over cloning could turn people away from dairy products. So far, public opinion appears mixed. A September poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that 64 percent of respondents were uncomfortable with animal cloning. And a December poll by the University of Maryland found that the same percentage would buy, or consider buying, such food if the government said it was safe.
Dean Foods spokeswoman Marguerite Copel said the company respects the FDA, ``but we've got a customer and consumer base.''
The company did not say whether it would use milk from the offspring of cloned animals. Cloning companies say the purpose of cloning is not to put many cloned livestock into the food supply. Instead, the goal is to make a genetic copy of a superior animal and then put its offspring into the food supply.