This week, the Dairy Pride Act (H.R. 1462), which requires FDA to follow its own regulations which consider any non-dairy products labelled using dairy terms to be misbranded, was introduced in the House.
Representatives John Joyce (R-PA) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) are the lead sponsors of the House bill, which currently has 19 cosponsors, including Wisconsin Representatives Derrick Van Orden, Brian Steil, Glenn Grothman, Mike Gallagher, and Scott Fitzgerald, and Minnesota representatives Angie Craig, Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad.
While in Washington D.C. attending the NMPF board meeting, FarmFirst General Manager, Jeff Lyon had a meeting with Representative Van Orden, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, about the bill and other dairy issues. “Representative Van Orden was extremely excited about the opportunity to help our dairy farmers and consumers. I really appreciated his energy,” said Lyon. “I also appreciate the other members in the Wisconsin and Minnesota delegations that have signed on as cosponsors.”
A week ago, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and James Risch (R-ID) introduced (S.549) which has been cosponsored by nine other Senators, including Minnesota Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar. When the Senate bill was introduced , Lyon commented “For years FarmFirst has been engaged on this issue and we commend Senator Baldwin for her persistent efforts to hold the FDA accountable through her direct communication with FDA and the reintroduction of the Dairy Pride Act.“ It’s extremely frustrating that FDA’s recently released dairy draft guidance contradicts their own regulation and definitions, allowing non-dairy products to use dairy names a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.” Currently, FDA regulations require products labeled as milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese to be produced from dairy animals. Unfortunately, FDA has not enforced those regulations, which has resulted in many plant, nut-based or lab-generated products being inappropriately labeled using dairy terms. Consumers are often unaware that the nutritional attributes of milk and other dairy products far exceed those of non-dairy beverages. In recognition of this problem, in late February of 2023, FDA released a proposed guidance on the labeling of plant-based beverages, which falls far short of what dairy producers want or consumers deserve, and equally short of full enforcement of FDA’s own standards of identity regulations for milk labeling. As guidance, the portion of FDA’s proposal that does improve the consumer marketplace – front-of-packaging disclosures by plant-based beverages of their inferiority to dairy – does not have the same strength as regulation. While FDA guidance is not binding and company disclosures are voluntary, most companies chose to follow such voluntary FDA guidance for fear of bad publicity or legal challenges.