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Vermont Cabot settles lawsuit over hormone-free cheese claim

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt (Reuters) - Agri-Mark Inc, parent company of Cabot Creamery Cooperative, has settled a Vermont state complaint that the iconic cheese and butter-maker misled the public over claims that its products are hormone-free.

Agri-Mark agreed to pay a $65,000 fine and donate $75,000 in dairy products to local food banks and maintain a web page listing Cabot products that contain the growth hormone, the Vermont attorney general's office said in a press release.

The state had accused the company of making misleading statements on Cabot's Facebook page and in emails saying that its products are free of the recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), a synthesized hormone given to cows to increase milk production.

"There is no excuse for shading the truth about rBST or any other aspect of our food supply," William Sorrell, Vermont's attorney general, said in a statement.

A statement from Agri-Mark said it was "pleased to have settled this matter." It added that Cabot products that do not bear an rBST-free icon have not been certified as being free of the hormone.

(Reporting by Jason McLure; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)