ARLINGTON, VA – The National Milk Producers Federation today endorsed new legislation introduced in the House of Representatives that would prompt the enforcement of dairy labeling terms, which are increasingly being used to market imitation products containing no real dairy ingredients.
Introduced by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Joe Courtney (D-CT), David Valadao (R-CA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), the House bill would compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action against misbranded, plant-based beverages that are inappropriately using dairy terms, especially “milk.” The measure requires the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of these definitions within 90 days. It would also require FDA to report to Congress two years after the bill’s enactment to hold the agency to its obligations.
The House bill mirrors Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WI) DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced two weeks ago in the Senate.
“Real milk has been recognized for decades for its important nutritional benefits,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “These imposter products almost always use dairy imagery, similar packaging and names – but they never match the nutritional benefits found in milk. This House legislation sends a clear message that plant-based foods should not be able to create and use nomenclature that is in conflict with existing federal standards of identity requiring the presence of real milk.”
FDA regulations (CFR 131.110) define “milk” as a product of a cow, with similar definitions for yogurt and cheese products. Though existing federal policy is clear on this subject, FDA has not challenged the labeling practices of imitators made out of nuts, beans, seeds and grains, which have been branding themselves using dairy-specific terms for the past two decades, according to NMPF.
The lack of enforcement of proper dairy terms in the United States market differs from to how the matter is handled in similar nations, which actually police the matter closely. While the term “almond milk” is seen on products sold in the United States, it is absent from the same brand of almond beverage sold in Canada and the United Kingdom.
In December, Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Peter Welch (D-VT) and a bipartisan coalition of 32 House members sent a letter to FDA urging the agency to more aggressively police the improper use of dairy terminology. NMPF also supported that effort.