A bipartisan bill proposed in both branches of Congress looks to combat the issue of mislabeled non-dairy products that unfairly use dairy names like milk, yogurt and cheese.
The Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (DAIRY PRIDE Act) was proposed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jim Risch (R-ID) on March 14. The legislation requires 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 regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) define dairy products as coming from dairy animals. However, FDA has not enforced the labeling regulations. This has led to mislabeling with plant-based products being referred to as ‘milk,’ ‘cheese’ and ‘yogurt.’ The non-dairy products might be perceived as having the same nutritional content as real dairy products by consumers, but typically do not have the same amount of vitamins, minerals or protein.
The DAIRY PRIDE Act requires FDA to provide guidance on national enforcement of mislabeling by dairy imitation production within 90 days. Also, FDA would be required to report to Congress two years after the legislation is enacted in order to hold the agency accountable regarding the update in enforcement obligations.
“Dairy farmers in Wisconsin work tirelessly every day to ensure that their milk meets high standards for nutritional value and quality,” says Senator Baldwin. “Imitation products have gotten away with using dairy’s good name for their own benefit, which is against the law and must be enforced. Mislabeling of plant-based products as ‘milk’ hurts our dairy farmers. That’s why I’m reintroducing the DAIRY PRIDE Act to take a stand for Wisconsin farmers and the quality products they make.”
“Idaho’s dairy farmers work hard to meet high FDA standards while others misuse the term “dairy” but aren’t subjected to the same rigorous requirements. This is not right,” says Senator Risch. “The nutritional value found in dairy is not replicated by imitation products, and it’s time our labeling requirements reflect that.”
The bill has the support of Senators on both sides of the aisle with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Angus King (I-ME) all cosponsoring the legislation.
The House of Representatives also introduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act on March 14, with Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) serving as the leads.
The DAIRY PRIDE Act was previously proposed in the 115th Congress session during 2017 with Senator Baldwin and Rep. Welch serving as sponsors for the bill that had many of the same cosponsors. The bill did not make it far through either side of Congress with it only being read or referred to during committees or subcommittees.
Support from Producers and Processors
A number of dairy farmers, groups representing dairy producers and dairy processors are in support of the DAIRY PRIDE Act. Here is what various people in the dairy industry are saying:
- “For too long, the FDA has turned a blind eye to the misbranding of imitation dairy products, despite the decades-old federal law that milk comes from animals, not vegetables or nuts. None of these imitators provides the same high quality and quantity of nutrition offered by real milk. Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act, coauthored by Senator Risch, will simply ensure that FDA enforces current law by requiring marketers of these imitation products to call them something other than milk,” says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.
- “National Farmers Union supports policy that encourages the healthy consumption of real dairy products and prevents the mislabeling of imitation and substitute dairy products in the marketplace. We appreciate Senator Baldwin’s leadership on the DAIRY PRIDE Act and her commitment to our nation’s dairy producers,” says Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union.
- “Wisconsin’s dairy industry is the backbone of our state’s agricultural economy. We receive world-wide recognition because our farmers take pride in providing healthy and safe dairy products to their customers. The labeling and marketing of all dairy milk products should be accurate and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration,” says Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President Jim Holte.
- “Wisconsin Farmers Union fully supports the introduction and swift passage of the DAIRY PRIDE Act. Our grassroots, member-driven policy opposes any changes in the FDA definition of milk, cheese or other products made with milk and opposes the use of the word "milk" to designate any product not derived from mammals,” Darin Von Ruden, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.
- “American consumers are best served by clear labeling of their food. When they buy cheese, yogurt, and ice cream at the grocery store, they expect those products are made with real milk – not a plant-based imitator,” says Jeff Schwager, President of Sartori Company in Plymouth, Wisconsin. “We applaud Senator Baldwin’s work to increase clarity in the marketplace, and encourage lawmakers to join in this important effort.”
- “We stand with dairy farmers by saying ‘no’ to the mislabeling of non-dairy products,” says Marieke Penterman of Marieke Gouda in Thorp, Wisconsin. “Corporations are taking advantage of a movement pushing for an ‘ethical’ way to consume products, ironically, by making false and unsubstantiated claims about their products. We thank Senator Baldwin for her work to support transparency in the marketplace, and to support the dairy industry.”
- “Dairy has built a strong reputation as a reliable source of important nutrients we need daily. To use these dairy terms on plant-based products undermines the real value that dairy provides in the form of naturally occurring Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin A among others. Consumers associate dairy with the nutrients they need, and those are naturally occurring in milk from cows,” says Janet Clark of Vision Aire Farms in Eldorado, Wisconsin.
- “Dairy farmers invest a great deal of time and money to produce a wholesome, nutritious product for consumers, and take pride in the milk they produce. The federal government has promised to ensure that the term ‘milk’ on store shelves can only be used on dairy products. But they have fallen short on that promise. The bill introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin will help ensure that products labeled as milk are indeed dairy products. Consumers and dairy farmers alike will be the beneficiaries of this effort,” says Steve Etka of the Midwest Dairy Coalition.
- “The number of plant-based products misusing dairy names on the label has increased dramatically in recent years. The lack of FDA action has led to an anything goes mentality in the marketplace. We thank Senator Baldwin for pushing to increase transparency for customers and fairness for dairy farm families and processors,” says Brody Stapel, Double Dutch Dairy, Cedar Grove, Wis., President of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
For more on the previous attempt to move the DAIRY PRIDE Act through Congress read the following stories: