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Head of FDA Pledges More Focus on Mislabeled Imitation Dairy Foods

May 7, 2018

Scott Gottlieb (pictured right), commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said last month that the agency will take “a very close and fresh look” at plant-based dairy imitators that use dairy terms on their packaging, acknowledging that federal standards define milk as sourced from animals.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on April 24, Gottlieb responded to a series of questions posed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who introduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act last year to address the mislabeling of dairy imitators. Gottlieb admitted that the agency has “exercised enforcement discretion” in not holding food marketers to that standard.

Gottlieb also told Baldwin that the agency “is committed to taking a fresh look about what we’re doing here” in the area of standards of identity. He said he “has actively stepped into this issue,” having heard the concerns of Baldwin and NMPF about the lax regulatory environment surrounding misbranded plant products using dairy terms.

He said that the FDA is requesting more information to inform its next steps. In pushing for more immediate action, Baldwin told Gottlieb that there is no need for more information, saying, “what we need is the FDA to act, and to issue guidance on enforcement of its existing dairy standards of identity.”

NMPF has repeatedly urged federal regulators to enforce U.S. food labeling laws that exclude the ability of plant-derived foods from using dairy terms, as do other nations that also have regulations clearly defining milk. NMPF President and CEO Mulhern thanked Baldwin “for holding the FDA accountable for its inaction on this matter, and imploring the FDA to do its job. Going forward, we need less discretion and more enforcement from the FDA.”