WASHINGTON – Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed guidance last week allowing nut, oat, soy, and other non-dairy products to use the name "milk,” Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the unfair practice of mislabeling non-dairy products using dairy names. The Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (DAIRY PRIDE Act) of 2023 would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. Additional cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
“For too long, plant-based products with completely different nutritional values have wrongly masqueraded as dairy,” said Senator Risch. “This dishonest branding is misleading to consumers and a disservice to the dairy farmers who have committed their lives to making milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and more nutritious products Idahoans enjoy every day. It is past time that the Food and Drug Administration enforce its own definitions for dairy terminology, prevent imitation products from deceiving consumers, and start advocating for the farmers who feed us.”
“Wisconsin’s dairy farmers produce second-to-none products with the highest nutritional value and imitation products have gotten away with using dairy’s good name without meeting those standards,” said Senator Baldwin. “The Biden Administration’s guidance that allows non-dairy products to use dairy names is just wrong, and I’m proud to take a stand for Wisconsin farmers and the quality products they make. Our bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act will protect our dairy farmers and ensure consumers know the nutritional value of what they are purchasing.”
“Idaho’s dairy producers rightfully take pride in their products,” said Senator Crapo. “Ensuring quality, nutritional dairy is not challenged by inaccurately-labeled imitation products protects our farmers and the consumers as they can be sure they are purchasing the standard of value and quality found in real milk.”
Current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals, however, last week the FDA released ill-advised draft guidance allowing plant-based products to continue to use dairy terms despite not containing dairy, nor having the nutritional value of dairy products.
The FDA’s anti-dairy draft guidance contradicts their own regulation and definitions, allowing non-dairy products to use dairy names, violating the Administrative Procedure Act, and hurting dairy farmers and producers, who work tirelessly to ensure their dairy products meet FDA standards and provide the public with nutritious food. It has also led to the proliferation of mislabeled alternative products that contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that are often not equivalent to the nutritional content of dairy products.
The DAIRY PRIDE Act would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days and require the FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment to hold the agency accountable for this update in their enforcement obligations. The legislation would also nullify any guidance that is not consistent with dairy standards of identity, including the one released last week.
“Idaho’s dairy producers join with farmers all over the country in frustration that manufacturers of other products get to take advantage of dairy’s good name by using terms reserved for real dairy products on the labels of their packages. The use of those terms is limited to real dairy products so that consumers can be assured they are getting the great taste and all of the nutrients they expect when they buy foods labeled ‘milk,’ ‘cheese and ‘yogurt,’” said Rick Naerebout, CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
“FDA’s unwillingness to enforce dairy standards of identity is harming public health and violates the entire purpose of the standards in the first place, protecting Americans. FDA’s last three Senate-confirmed commissioners from both parties have each acknowledged the problem caused by imitation beverages that use dairy terms, and medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree with this concern. NMPF thanks Senators Tammy Baldwin and Jim Risch for their dedication to ensuring FDA does its job to protect Americans, a responsibility that Congress must fulfill by passing the DAIRY PRIDE Act,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation. “We applaud Senators Baldwin and Risch for moving quickly with the reintroduction of the DAIRY PRIDE Act to make clear to FDA that its recent guidance on labeling imitator beverages is unacceptable and will not stand. NMPF looks forward to continuing to work with Senators Baldwin as well as House champions on this issue to ensure FDA does its job and enforces dairy standards of identity.”
The bipartisan legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).