LOS ANGELES — Rolling back state policies that guide retail prices and nutritional standards for milk would increase consumption and lower consumer costs, according to a report released Tuesday by a consumer group funded by out-of-state dairies.
Leaders of the California dairy industry immediately denounced the report, arguing that the state's strict regulations ensure a quality product.
Mad About Milk, a consumer group financed by dairies seeking to gain a foothold in California, released the report at a Los Angeles City Hall news conference.
The report's release was timed to coincide with Friday's expected announcement of a 41-cents-a-gallon hike in wholesale milk prices statewide, activists said.
Mad About Milk representatives said they commissioned the report to explain why California retail milk prices remain among the highest in the nation.
According to the report, California consumers pay higher prices for milk because state regulators prevent retailers from selling milk below cost and allow only specially enriched milk to be sold here.
But state milk industry leaders said doing away with the regulations would have a minimal effect on retail prices and would reduce quality.
"California data show that the basic cost of fortifying milk adds 14 cents per gallon of low-fat milk--less than a penny a glass--and for that they get extra calcium and protein," said Jim Tillison, director of the Alliance of Western Milk Producers, which represents more than two-thirds of the state's dairies.