The DAIRY PRIDE Act, which was reintroduced today in the Senate by Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, 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.
Current Food and Drug Administration regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals. Although existing federal regulations are clear, the FDA has not enforced these labeling regulations and the mislabeling of plant-based imitation dairy products as “milk,” “yogurt,” and “cheese” has increased rapidly. This hurts dairy farmers that work tirelessly to ensure their dairy products meet FDA standards and provide the public with nutritious food. It has also led to an increase of mislabeled alternative products that contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that fall short of the nutrition content of dairy products.
National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO said, “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. 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.”
The bipartisan 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.
“Research has shown that customers are confused by the way dairy imitations are presented in the marketplace. Mislabeling is not tolerated in most sectors of the economy, but it is pervasive in the dairy aisle,” Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative President Brody Stapel said. “It’s frustrating to see the inaction by the FDA to correct the problem.”
A national survey co-commissioned by Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative found that customers are confused about whether imitation cheese products are indeed dairy foods and whether they carry the same nutritional value.
Some of the findings:
- One-quarter of customers mistakenly think plant-based products labeled as cheese contain milk.
- One-third of customers believe that the products contain protein, and 21 percent think that it is of a higher quality than dairy even though the imitations have little to no protein. Real dairy cheese has 7 grams of protein.
- One-quarter of customers purchase imitation cheeses because they believe them to be low in calories and fat and without additives. In reality, these plant-based foods contain an equal or comparable amount of fat and calories and substantially more additives than dairy cheeses.
Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union, said, “Consumers these days are confronted with an overwhelming number of choices at their grocery stores — and confusing or misleading labels can make already difficult purchasing decisions even harder. There’s no reason it needs to be like this. With accurate and informative labels, the DAIRY PRIDE Act will give Americans with the ability to make more informed purchasing decisions.”
A companion bill is being introduced in the House as well.