On July 6, a letter sent to the FDA dropped heavy criticism on the agency’s inaction in regulating the term “milk.” Thirty-seven state Farm Bureaus and other agricultural groups expressed displeasure over the labeling of imitation dairy products using that term and asked for the issue to be addressed immediately.
The letter was coordinated by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau and sent to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
“We organized this letter because our members are frustrated with the status quo of zero enforcement by FDA,” said WFBF President Jim Holte.
The letter listed numerous points as to why mislabeling is a huge disservice to consumers and a serious problem. Some main points from the letter were:
- Misleading consumers is a severe public health risk. Food Allergy Research and Education estimates that more than 15 million Americans have a food allergy, and of those, nearly 6 million are children under the age of 18. Mislabeling nut-based or imitation dairy beverages as “milk” can have severe consequences.
- Plant-based beverages are not held to the same “Standards of Identity” and yet they share in the benefits of using the term “milk” on their packaging.
- The decision to exercise discretion in enforcement has degraded dairy’s share of the marketplace and consequently has significantly harmed the financial viability of more than 40,000 dairy farm families.
- Failure of the FDA to administer current regulations runs counter to the stated goal of the White House to enforce regulations and bring accountability to those who violate the rule of law. FDA is legally required to uphold the law.
- Recent comments on FDA’s behalf discussed the use of plant-based beverages in the dairy aisle and acknowledged the definition of milk — the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows. The groups expressed a severe disappointment to hear the admittance that FDA has not been enforcing proper labeling for plant-based imitation dairy beverages that inappropriately use the term “milk.”
After the letter was sent to the FDA, Holte and State Farm Bureau presidents from Mississippi, Tennessee, and Utah met with Gottlieb and senior agency staff to discuss the letter, the issue of FDA’s use of discretionary enforcement on labeling and Standards of Identity.
“Commissioner Gottlieb was understanding of the many issues facing America’s dairy industry and we had a productive conversation about the proper procedure moving forward to address accurate Standards of Identity,” Holte said.
The organizations who signed the letter to FDA include: Alabama Farmers Federation, Arizona Farm Bureau, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Colorado Farm Bureau, Dairy Business Association, EDGE Dairy Farmer Cooperative, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Georgia Farm Bureau, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Idaho Farm Bureau, Illinois Farm Bureau, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Indiana Farm Bureau, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Maryland Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Mississippi Farm Bureau, Missouri Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farm Bureau, New Hampshire Farm Bureau, New Jersey Farm Bureau, New York Farm Bureau, North Carolina Farm Bureau, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, Oregon Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Rhode Island Farm Bureau, South Carolina Farm Bureau, Tennessee Farm Bureau, United Dairymen of Arizona, Utah Farm Bureau, Washington Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation.