We have been talking at length for years about what constitutes a dairy product. First, it was products made from nuts such as almonds and cashews. Then, it was other products such as oats and rice. Many of us still wonder where it is you actually milk these products, and how they’re young nurse from their parents.
If it isn’t the plant-based “dairy products”, it’s now lab grown dairy products. It seems that the dairy industry is under attack in the United States, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are not doing what they’re supposed to do to protect those producers. Producers do not argue about having alternatives to their dairy products. They understand that people have certain dietary restrictions or dietary preferences. However, the problem lies with not calling those products what they are, dairy alternatives. The problem is that these products are being mislabeled as dairy. Dairy, by definition, means to come from the milk produced by a mammal. We obviously could use any mammal’s milk if we really wanted to, however, I don’t believe anybody wants to go around milking a whale or an elephant.
Lawmakers in dairy states have long been lobbying Congress to either define what dairy is or arguing with the USDA to do its job. In the most recent chapter in this saga, Wisconsin Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin let a group of AG state lawmakers to ask the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on non-dairy lab-grown products illegally labeled with dairy terms.
By its statute, the FDA says that dairy products come from dairy animals however they will not enforce those regulations and keep allowing non-dairy products or plant-based products to be called dairy. Senator Baldwin and other lawmakers have been fighting this for years to get the FDA to just enforce its own rules, which they say are misleading the consumers in the grocery stores. They have reintroduced the bipartisan Dairy Pride Act again this year.
Ag groups such as the National Milk Producers Federation have welcomed the effort they say “Americans need marketplace transparency, integrity, and protection now more than ever, as new products and processes are transforming what consumers find on grocery shelves at an increasingly rapid rate.”