Fifty-eight members of the House of Representatives wrote to Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn urging the agency to quickly finish and act upon its examination of how to enforce regulations defining what may be labeled a dairy product.
“The deception caused by mislabeling of imitation products is both unfair to our hardworking dairy farmers and problematic for consumers, making it harder for Americans to make educated decisions about what they feed themselves and their families,” the lawmakers wrote in the bipartisan letter, which was led by Reps. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), Mike Simpson (R., Ida.), Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.) and John Joyce (R., Pa.).
Citing public health concerns expressed by medical groups that included the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Assn., Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the members of Congress said they appreciated that Hahn saw the topic of fake dairy labeling as “a public health and nutrition matter” while calling action on it “long overdue.”
“FDA knows this is a problem, and now is the time to solve it,” said National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern, who welcomed the lawmakers' letter. “Dr. Hahn has shown his interest in resolving it, public health professionals have spoken out and more and more members of Congress are as well. Agency inertia shouldn’t jeopardize public health. We applaud the efforts of lawmakers to prod FDA into action.”
Many letter signers are also co-sponsoring the DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced by Welch and Simpson in the House and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) and Jim Risch (R., Ida.) in the Senate. That legislation would designate foods that make an inaccurate claim about milk contents as “misbranded” and subject to enforcement of labeling rules. It would require FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days of its passage and require FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment to hold the agency accountable in its enforcement.
Hahn has voiced his support for “clear, transparent and understandable labeling for the American people.” Given the agency’s inability to follow up on earlier pledges to act, NMPF said it supports passage of the DAIRY PRIDE Act.