With the U.S. Food & Drug Administration giving little indication of taking promised action on proper labeling of imitation dairy products, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) recently asked the agency’s ombudsman to ensure that rules are properly enforced.
“Allowing unlawfully labeled ‘plant-based’ imitation dairy foods to proliferate poses an immediate and growing risk to public health; it is a clear dereliction of the FDA’s duty to enforce federal law and agency regulations,” NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern wrote in the letter, sent to FDA ombudsman Dr. Laurie Lenkel. “The FDA’s Office of the Ombudsman must intervene to break the bureaucratic logjam that is adversely affecting consumers. Doing so would fit squarely within the office’s own mission to ensure even-handed application of FDA policy and procedures.”
According to the agency, the ombudsman, based in the FDA commissioner’s office, “serves as a neutral and independent resource for members of FDA-regulated industries when they experience problems with the regulatory process.”
NMPF is urging the Office of the Ombudsman to take appropriate action to remedy FDA’s lax approach to enforcing its own rules on the use of dairy terms on products containing no dairy ingredients, which have proven impacts on public health – a new phase of advocacy brought about by the agency’s inaction. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations have offered evidence of nutritional deficiencies caused by confusion over the contents of plant-based versus dairy beverages.
NMPF last year released its own roadmap offering solutions to how public health, product integrity and free speech could be protected through updated regulations. NMPF also supports the DAIRY PRIDE Act, a potential legislative prod for FDA action, and has asked FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn to follow up on the pledge he made nearly one year ago to make imitation dairy labeling a high-priority issue at FDA.