Soy milk, almond milk and algae milk all have one thing in common, according to dairy farmers — they are not milks, and Congress wants to stop food producers from calling a drink “milk” if it doesn’t come from cows or goats.
The DAIRY PRIDE Act, proposed in the Senate Thursday, aims at protecting the term milk from interloping soy, rice, nut and algae products.
“Imitation products have gotten away with using’s good name for their own benefit, which is against the law and must be enforced,” Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said in a statement introducing the bill.
“Mislabeling of plant-based products as ‘milk’ hurts our dairy farmers,” Baldwin said.
The law would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce current definitions of milk and cream in the market. Milk and cream are already defined as “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more hooved mammals,” but the FDA does not prevent non-dairy products from being labeled as milk.
Dairy farmers have had a tough couple years, in part due to decreasing demand for milk in America, and declining milk prices worldwide, and many farms have had to kill off their cows or close entirely.
The Department of Agriculture, at the request of Congress and a coalition of dairy advocates, gave the industry a bailout of sorts in the form of a $20 million purchase of surplus cheese. (RELATED: US Gov’t Buying Enough Cheddar For 67 MILLION Grilled Cheese Sandwiches)
Calling a drink milk because it’s white misleads customers into thinking the product is healthy, dairy advocates say. To get the same amount of calcium and vitamin D that’s in a glass of cow’s milk, people would have to drink a larger portion of plant-based milk, with more calories, the legislation says. What’s called almond milk, for instance, is almond powder with water, frequently with added sugar.
“Imitation dairy products, such as plant-based products derived from rice, nuts, soybeans, hemp, coconut, algae, and other foods that imitate milk, yogurt, and cheese, often do not provide the same nutrition content as real milk, cheese, and yogurt derived from dairy cows,” the legislation says.
Dairy groups praise the legislation as an important move to protect the dairy industry.
“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,” Jim Mulhern, CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation said.
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