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Congress prods FDA on dairy alternatives

Recently, 58 members of the House of Representatives who wrote FDA 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,” wrote the lawmakers in the bipartisan letter, which was led by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), and John Joyce (R-PA).

Citing public health concerns expressed by medical groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the 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 Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “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 Representatives Welch and Simpson in the House and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jim Risch (R-ID) 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 supports DAIRY PRIDE’s passage.

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