The Act (S.130) - introduced to the Senate on January 12 and to the House (H.R.778) on January 31 - says products labeled with terms such as 'almondmilk' are misleading consumers and openly violating federal standards of identity, which limit the use of the term 'milk' to the lacteal secretions of cows.
The Act would “require that non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae no longer be confusingly labeled with dairy terms like milk, yogurt, and cheese," and would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of “mislabeled imitation dairy products” within 90 days.
It would also permit products from the lacteal secretions of other hooved mammals such as goats to be described as 'milk,' 'cheese,' and 'yogurt.'
Standards of identity are designed to protect consumers, not manufacturers
However, The Good Food Institute (a supporter of 'clean meat' and plant-based dairy alternatives) argues that the “absurd” act is a waste of government resources - and that there is no evidence that consumers are being misled, while plant-based brand Daiya has dubbed it a “solution looking for a problem.”
In a letter accompanying the petition, GFI executive director Bruce Friedrich said: “Federal standards of identity are designed to protect consumers from being misled by confusing labels. These regulations are not designed to protect particular industries against free market competition.”
Serious constitutional concerns
He added: “In 2013, a federal judge found that soymilk is indeed an accurate label, noting it ‘stretches the bounds of credulity’ that any consumer would be deceived.
“Americans are actively seeking out plant-based milks for a wide variety of reasons—they enjoy the taste, they want to avoid cholesterol, they’re concerned by the environmental impacts of conventional animal agriculture or the treatment of dairy cows. Regardless of the precise motivation, everyone who purchases soy, almond, or coconut milk is entirely aware of what they’re buying.”
Finally, he argued, the legislation “raises serious constitutional concerns,” adding: “If the government is going to censor companies that manufacture plant-based products, it must further a substantial government interest. Curbing market competition for the sake of bolstering dairy industry profits does not qualify.”
"Federal standards of identity are designed to protect consumers from being misled by confusing labels. These regulations are not designed to protect particular industries against free market competition."
Bruce Friedrich, executive director, The Good Food Institute
The National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association, however, argue that the Dairy Pride Act simply requires the FDA to enforce standards of identity already enshrined in law.
They also argue that many consumers believe that all plant-based milks are nutritionally equivalent – or superior to – dairy milk, at least when it comes to protein (an argument bolstered to some degree by plant-based brand Ripple, which dubbed almond milk ‘a sham’ in a media campaign last week).
“These plant-based products are imitations, but they are not substitutes for the comprehensive nutrient package offered by real milk,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA. “The reason we have food standards is to preserve the integrity and consistency of what’s inside the packages. Milk should be milk.”
Click HERE to read the petition.
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