Agricultural groups have expressed appreciation for the reintroduction of the DAIRY PRIDE Act. The legislation seeks to enforce the labeling requirements for dairy alternatives. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senators Tammy Baldwin and Jim Risch, with a companion bill to be introduced in the House as well. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearly defines dairy products as being derived from dairy animals. However, enforcement of those standards has been exceptionally lax with numerous plant-based products continuing to use the terms ‘milk,’ ‘yogurt,’ and ‘cheese’ in their labeling.
“FDA is responsible for the integrity and safety of our nation’s food, medicine, and medical devices, and it’s crucial that it enforce its own standards and requirements,” National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO, Jim Mulhern said in a news release. “Without enforcement, we are left open to the potential for questionable products, deceptive practices, and, in cases such as mislabeled plant-based products that masquerade as having nutritional benefits similar to dairy’s, negative effects to our health.”
The DAIRY PRIDE Act of 2021 is known formally as the Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act. Other supporters of the legislation include the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The legislation seeks to prevent products made from non-dairy items from using dairy terms in their labeling. FDA would be mandated to develop a plan for enforcement of labeling requirements within 90 days if the legislation were to pass. Congress would then review enforcement actions two years after the DAIRY PRIDE Act went into effect.
Supporters of the DAIRY PRIDE Act have pointed out that fairly rapid turnover in FDA leadership has created a lack of stability in implementing a unified strategy for enforcement. A previous effort in 2017 to address the mislabeling of non-dairy products had been unsuccessful. Under the direction of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the agency gathered public comments on the issue of labeling enforcement. After his resignation in 2019, his successor Stephen Hahn was encouraged to take up the issue, as the legislation was once again introduced. President Joe Biden has still yet to choose the new head of the FDA, with the department currently being led by interim commissioner Janet Woodcock.