Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), and Rep. David G. Valadao (R-CA) today introduced legislation in the House that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take enforcement action against manufacturers labeling plant-based beverages as milk.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers object to the misleading practice of labeling as "milk' a variety of plant-based products that do not have the unique attributes or nutritional value of real milk. The DAIRY PRIDE Act would require the FDA to issue guidance on how it will enforce the regulatory definition of milk as a product produced by a mammary gland. The agency would be required to report back to Congress on its efforts within 90 days of enactment.
"The deceptive labeling and branding of plant-based beverages as "milk' misleads consumers and negatively impacts the dairy industry," the lawmakers said. "Milk does not come from the ground. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying. Our legislation compels the FDA to do its job and ensure consumers shopping for milk get milk."
The dairy industry is being buffeted by extreme financial hardships. Since 2014, milk prices have plunged 40 percent. During the same time, there has been a surge in the mislabeling of imitation milk products. While consumers are entitled to choose imitation products, it is deceptive to use the "milk" name.
The legislation can be read in its entirety here.
Last month, the lawmakers sent a letter to the FDA objecting to the mislabeling of imitation plant-based products that do not have the unique attributes and nutritional value of milk.
"Real milk has been recognized for decades for its important nutritional benefits. These imposter products almost always use dairy imagery, similar packaging and names -- but they never match the nutritional benefits found in milk. The new legislation sends a clear message that plant-based foods should not be able to create and use nomenclature that is in conflict with existing federal standards of identity requiring the presence of real milk," said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has previously introduced identical legislation in the Senate.