Dairy Industry Urges FDA to Prohibit the Use of Traditional Dairy Terms on Plant-Based Products
In a February 2020 letter, a group of 58 lawmakers urged FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to prohibit plant-based alternatives from labeling their products with traditional dairy terms. The lawmakers noted that, unless FDA starts enforcing its existing standards of identity for milk and prohibit the use of terms, such as “milk” on plant-based products, the agency will only reinforce consumers’ misconceptions that plant-based milks provide the same nutritional content as animal-based milk.
In their letter, the lawmakers referenced recent opinions, which warned the public not to use plant-based substitutes in place of cow’s milks for young children. For example, a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry urged parents to avoid feeding young children plant-based milk products, as they do not contain the same nutrients as cow’s milk. In addition, USDA guidelines have noted that plant-based products sold as “milks” may be consumed as a source of calcium; however, USDA also stated that their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk.
Many of the lawmakers who signed the letter to the FDA also support the Dairy Against Limitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (“DAIRY PRIDE Act”). The DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced in March 2019, would designate foods that make an inaccurate claim about milk contents as “misbranded” and subject them to enforcement of labeling rules. Moreover, the DAIRY PRIDE Act would require FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days of its passage and would require FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment. In late January, Tom Balmer, the Executive Vice President of the National Milk Producers Federation, testified before a congressional subcommittee on behalf of the bill. We will continue to monitor any developments.