The National Milk Producers Federation has soured on efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to devote attention to regulating the names of certain types of sugar, while at the same time the agency is ignoring the misuse of dairy-specific names in foods with no milk content.
In a letter sent today as part of an FDA request for comments, NMPF questioned why the FDA is focused on clarifying the common or usual name for “dried cane syrup” or “evaporated cane juice” – a type of dried sugar used as a food ingredient – even as it allows soy, rice, nut and hemp products to define themselves as milk, in violation of long-standing food standards.
“Getting a sugar fix is fine and well, as long as the FDA also turns its attention to a problem that has been ignored for more than a decade,” said Beth Briczinski, NMPF Vice President of Dairy Foods & Nutrition. “Unfortunately, the agency’s lack of effort on misbranded and mislabeled imitation dairy products has left a bitter taste in our mouths.”
In the letter sent Monday to FDA, NMPF wrote that it is not advising FDA “on an appropriate name for what would be obvious to most consumers is a type of sweetener, but rather to question the Agency’s allocation of resources to such an effort. It seems rather disingenuous for the Agency to utilize its often-referenced ‘limited resources’ to issue additional labeling guidance, while simultaneously not enforcing existing regulations pertaining to the identity of foods” including imitation dairy products, NMPF wrote in the letter.
“The Agency has blatantly disregarded the names displayed on the labels of imitation dairy products (e.g., “soy milk”, “rice yogurt”, etc.) in the current marketplace. While the FDA has made its position clear through warning letters to several manufacturers…NMPF would argue that these actions have been too infrequent to be effective, essentially creating a labeling landscape free of enforcement.”
Today’s letter from NMPF is the latest in a series of correspondence between the dairy organization and the FDA, dating back to 2000, in which NMPF has urged the agency to enforce existing requirements for the labeling of imitation foods specifying that many milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream substitutes produced from vegetable or plant materials are not nutritionally equivalent to real dairy products.
“Manufacturers of these imitation products have misled American consumers for far too long – making a mockery of currently labeling regulations – by usurping the ‘dairy halo’ associated with wholesome and nutritious milk and dairy products,” the letter said.