Bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act May Further FDA Enforcement Progress

Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and James Risch (R-ID) on April 22 reintroduced the bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act. The bill would bring clear, accurate labeling information for consumers and end harmful mislabeling of dairy foods by peddlers of plant-based products by requiring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce its own existing standards of identity on imitation dairy products after decades of inaction.

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern thanked Welch and Simpson and Baldwin and Risch for reintroducing the measure and their ongoing leadership working to ensure FDA does its job. NMPF has been working for decades for FDA to enforce dairy standards of identity, as plant-based imitators have a long history of flouting these labeling laws to piggyback on dairy’s good name and reputation and benefiting from the “halo of health” associated with nutritious, healthy dairy products.

“FDA is responsible for the integrity and safety of our nation’s food, medicine, and medical devices, and it’s crucial that it enforce its own standards and requirements,” Mulhern said. “Without enforcement, we are left open to the potential for questionable products, deceptive practices, and, in cases such as mislabeled plant-based products that masquerade as having nutritional benefits similar to dairy’s, negative effects to our health.”

Medical groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics are voicing concerns over the harm lack of enforcement is having on public health as misinformed consumers unintentionally choose less nutritious products for themselves and their families.

Congress has also shown a growing concern for FDA’s failure to enforce. The House held a hearing in January 2020 on the agency’s lack of enforcement, during which NMPF Executive Vice President Tom Balmer testified on the need to enforce dairy standards of identity. In December 2020 Congress included in the report accompanying the FDA funding bill for FY 2021 a statement of concern and directive to FDA regarding enforcing standards of identity for dairy products.

NMPF will continue working on FDA enforcement, building on this progress made in 2020, with Mulhern seeing the reintroduction of the DAIRY PRIDE Act as “helping NMPF and consumers continue to move forward toward solving this critical public health and fairness issue.”

NMPF Lauds Progress on Growing Climate Solutions Act, Welcomes Conservation Proposals

NMPF applauded bipartisan work being done on legislation that would bolster the many conservation and environmental efforts dairy producers are leading as they continue their everyday stewardship of air, land, and water resources.

Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reintroduced on April 20 their bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which creates a USDA certification program permitting the department to informally endorse technical service providers that can help farmers implement environmental stewardship practices that may generate carbon credits.

The legislation, if passed, would greatly help dairy farmers seeking to achieve the sector’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality or better by 2050 through dairy’s Net Zero Initiative.

“We commend Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Braun for continuing their bipartisan leadership on the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would encourage greater farmer participation in environmental markets,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “This legislation will enhance the proactive, sustainable initiatives dairy farmers are expanding as our sector strives to achieve carbon neutrality.”

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee passed the bill on April 22 with broad bipartisan support. On the same day, Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Don Bacon (R-NE) reintroduced the companion House measure. NMPF submitted written testimony supporting the measure on behalf of Mulhern and Environmental Issues Committee Chair Mike McCloskey for a hearing held on the bill last June.

NMPF additionally commended House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), who last month put forward several measures to adapt farm bill conservation programs that help address climate change: allowing private sector funding to meet conservation program demand; emphasizing soil health and increasing funding for Conservation Innovation Trials; and incentivizing the adoption of precision agriculture systems.

“We thank Ranking Member Thompson for furthering the conversation on climate and sustainability by putting forward several proposals for discussion,” said Mulhern. “We agree that farm bill conservation programs can be vital to helping producers reduce their environmental footprint, and we look forward to more closely examining this suite of legislation and other proposals that may be introduced in the coming weeks.”

Dairy — Tough to Live Without It

The misguided, fringe argument that dairy isn’t important to human diets would be laughable if it weren’t dangerous. Is it possible to live without dairy? It’s possible to live without many things – sunlight, for example — but that doesn’t make it healthy, wise or preferable.

While a dairy-free life is possible, it isn’t wise – unless, maybe, you’re severely allergic or perhaps work in sales for a nutritional supplement company. A few facts:

  • Scientific studies have linked dairy consumption to numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved digestive health and healthy immune systems.
  • According to last year’s final scientific advisory report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which sets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, 88 percent of Americans have insufficient dairy in their diets.
  • Dairy is especially important to pregnant women as a source of iodine — as well as for infants and toddlers, who beginning at six months can benefit from yogurt and cheese, and at 12 months gain nutrition from dairy milk.
  • The Advisory Committee also recommended dairy for consumption within all three healthy eating patterns featured in its report: the Healthy U.S. style eating pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Style pattern and the Healthy-Mediterranean pattern.
  • More on eating patterns. Healthy eating patterns that include dairy foods are linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • And what about dairy’s inclusion in the Healthy Vegetarian pattern? Why is it vegetarian, and not vegan? Because when you get rid of dairy, you need supplements to make up for the lost nutrition. Dairy foods are often recommended as part of plant-based diets because they contain high-quality proteins and under-consumed nutrients like calcium, vitamins D and B12.
  • Those aren’t the only under-consumed nutrients milk provides. Others include potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin A.
  • In total, dairy packs in 13 essential nutrients. For a reference list, see the infographic below, suitable for printing and framing.
  • Dairy isn’t only essential – it’s also affordable. According to recent retail data, a gallon of conventional milk cost 56 percent less than a plant-based beverage, while yogurt was 59 percent less expensive than its imitators – which are nutritionally inferior anyway.
  • Speaking of plant-based beverages. Their attempts to trick consumers into believing they’re nutritional equivalents to dairy has tragic consequences, as detailed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, members of whom have observed child malnourishment caused by reliance on plant-based imitators by parents who mistakenly thought, because of a lack of labeling integrity, that they were getting dairy’s unique nutrient package. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also cautions against plant-based substitution, noting that most plant-based beverages lack nutritional equivalence.
  • Following on that: Simplistic views of plant- versus animal-sourced foods may have unintended consequences for human health. Removing animal-sourced products from diets would force, much of the world’s population to rely on supplements to make up for nutritional shortfalls.
  • And that all leads into a final point: Dairy’s sustainability. By providing nutrition efficiently through environmentally sustainable practices, dairy is a part of the long-term solution to planet health as well as human health. Skeptics can look to, among many other things, the sector’s Net Zero Initiative and its sustainability goals, along with other literature, such as modeling published in the Journal of Dairy Science that assessed the impacts of completely removing dairy cows from the U.S. and removing dairy from all American diets. The results showed a lack of presumed environmental benefits, but a notable threat to human health.

Dairy’s unique nutrient package is hard to replace. It’s one of the most affordable and accessible nutrient sources, including many that are critically needed and under-consumed in human diets. You can live without it – but why on Earth would you want to? Maybe because you’re into supplement pills, or maybe you just like living a less-nutritious lifestyle, or maybe you’re just ill-informed.  We can’t help you with the first two, but as always, we’re happy to educate. Stay safe, and stay nourished.

Infographic of 13 ways milk can help your body