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Members of Congress Press FDA to Enforce Dairy Terms for Better Public Health

May 6, 2024

NMPF helped members of Congress elevate the urgency for the Food and Drug Administration to finally enforce dairy product standards of identity through pointed questions asked when the agency appeared before Congress last month to present its fiscal year 2025 budget request.

Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-NY, raised the issue with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf when he appeared April 11 before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Langworthy emphasized the significant research that has linked numerous health issues in children to the consumption of plant-based dairy imitators in place of real milk. He also pointed to the confusion that exists in the marketplace regarding the nutritional content of these imitation products, which NMPF and numerous public health organizations have conveyed to FDA.

Califf agreed with Langworthy on the importance of consumer understanding of the nutritional differences between dairy products and plant-based imitators. However, he suggested that court rulings have hamstrung the agency’s ability to require the proper use of terms on a product label.

That, however, wasn’t the end of the conversation.

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-MI, picked up where Langworthy left off when Califf appeared April 18 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. Moolenaar followed up on Califf’s remarks the week prior, pointing out that court rulings do not prevent FDA from requiring plant-based dairy imitators to use disclaimers such as ‘substitute’ or ‘alternative,’ as NMPF had previously recommended in its 2019 Citizen Petition. Califf once again agreed with the need to ensure consumers are aware of the nutritional differences between products. However, in response to a follow up question from Moolenaar, he did not commit to using disclaimers in the interest of public health.

NMPF is grateful for the continued support from members of Congress in both parties who for years have urged FDA to simply do its job and enforce the law. The agency’s continued inaction underscores the importance of congressional passage of the bipartisan, bicameral DAIRY PRIDE Act that would solve this problem.