Efforts to expose the deceptive labeling and marketing of plant-based products that exploit the nutritional halo of real dairy products continues to gain traction and “has these fake food marketers worried,” attendees here at the National Milk Producers Federation’s annual meeting heard this week by the organization’s leadership.
NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern told the organization that he remains committed to achieving passage in Congress of the DAIRY PRIDE Act (DPA), legislation in the Senate and House that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing food labeling standards and prevent misbranded plant-based imitators from appropriating federally-defined dairy terms on their labels.
The Senate bill, S. 130, was introduced in January by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The companion House bill, H.R. 778, was introduced later that month 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).
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 classification, “the FDA has unfortunately allowed these decidedly non-dairy copycats made from nuts, beans, seeds and grains to label their products using dairy-specific terms,” Mulhern said.
Mulhern told the dairy farmer members of NMPF during the organization’s 101st annual meeting that the U.S. regulatory system for food labeling is failing consumers, as it fails to adjust to the proliferation of foods mimicking real dairy products. He said that in the absence of a strong federal role in food labeling, nutritionally inferior imitators will continue to pass themselves off as suitable substitutes for real milk.
He noted that vegan organizations have organized to oppose the DPA “because they recognize that the attention we’ve brought to this issue through the introduction of the DAIRY PRIDE Act shines a spotlight on the nutritional inferiority of fake dairy products, in comparison to real milk and dairy products. Once Congress enacts this legislation, FDA will no longer be able ignore their own existing regulations.”
While FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has recently expressed interest in having his agency look more carefully at the labeling issue, passage in Congress of the DPA is needed to force the FDA to act on the matter.