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NMPF Backs Senate, House Bills Calling for Enforcement of Dairy Labeling Standards

February 6, 2017

National Milk’s efforts to spur enforcement of milk labeling standards took a major leap forward last month with the introduction of companion bills in the Senate and House that would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to police the misuse of dairy-specific terms.

NMPF has pushed the FDA for many years to take action against plant-based imitators that are mislabeling their packages, and worked last month with leaders in both congressional chambers to formulate the legislation, creating new momentum in the ongoing labeling enforcement campaign.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WI) DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced in mid-January, would protect the integrity of dairy standards by requiring that the FDA develop a 90-day timetable for enforcement actions against vegetable-based milk imitators made from non-dairy ingredients like almonds, rice and soy. Her bill also would require that the FDA report to Congress two years after the bill’s enactment to explain its enforcement actions.

Meanwhile, an identical, bipartisan bill was introduced on Jan. 31 in the House 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). NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern praised the lawmakers for their work on this important issue.

“For too long, the FDA has turned a blind eye to the misbranding of imitation dairy products, despite the decades-old federal law that milk comes from animals, not vegetables or nuts,” he said. “Real milk has been recognized for decades for its important nutritional benefits. These imposter products almost always use dairy imagery, similar packaging and names – but they never match the nutritional benefits found in milk.”

Current regulations (CFR 131.110) define milk as a product of a cow. 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. NMPF has noted how the United States’ lack of enforcement efforts differs greatly from those in similar nations, which actively enforce standards of identify. 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.