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FDA commissioner urged to uphold dairy terms

Letter from bipartisan senators seeks continued action from new FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) and Jim Risch (R., Ida.) are leading their colleagues in standing up for America’s dairy farmers in a bipartisan letter to Dr. Stephen Hahn, the new commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Working on behalf of dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Idaho and across the country, Baldwin and Risch implored Hahn to work with Congress to combat the misuse of dairy terms on non-dairy products.

“Dairy farmers across our nation work hard to ensure their products are healthy, nutrient dense and in compliance with FDA regulations regarding the use of dairy terms. However, there are many non-dairy imitation products in the marketplace using dairy terms. This represents a clear violation of existing FDA rules,” the senators wrote in their letter. “When non-dairy alternatives use dairy terms to describe their imitation products, the imitators are often assumed to have the same health benefits and nutrient levels as real dairy products. This is both unfair to our hardworking dairy farmers and problematic for consumers, making it harder for Americans to make educated decisions regarding what they feed themselves and their families.”

The letter noted that under former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, "FDA began a process of reviewing how to enforce regulations defining what may be labeled a dairy product. That process included a public comment period that has concluded. Dairy farmers are now waiting for action from FDA. We encourage you to move swiftly to address this unfairness and ensure that dairy terms may only be used to describe products that include dairy. Imposter products should no longer be able to get away with violating law and taking advantage of dairy’s good name.”

In addition to Baldwin and Risch, the letter was also signed by Sens. Mike Crapo (R., Ida.), Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Tina Smith (D., Minn.), Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Angus King (I., Maine).

Baldwin and Risch are also lead co-sponsors of the DAIRY PRIDE Act of 2019, which would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants and algae to no longer be labeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. Current FDA regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals. Although existing federal regulations are clear, FDA has not enforced these labeling regulations, and the mislabeling of products as milk, yogurt and cheese has increased rapidly.

The senators argue that this hurts dairy farmers who work tirelessly to ensure that their dairy products meet FDA standards and provide the public with nutritious food. “It has also led to the proliferation of mislabeled alternative products that contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that are often not equivalent to the nutrition content of dairy products,” they said.

TAGS: Policy
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