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April 05, 2017

King Announces Support for Bill Helping Maine Dairy Farmers

Legislation requires FDA to enforce existing labeling requirements against non-dairy products that are mislabeled as milk, yogurt and cheese

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator King (I-Maine) today announced his support for the DAIRY PRIDE Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) that would protect the integrity of dairy products and require that non-dairy products not be labeled with dairy terms like milk, yogurt and cheese.

            “Maine dairy farmers work hard day-in and day-out to meet FDA standards and deliver high-quality dairy products to tabletops across Maine and the nation,” Senator King said. “So I think it’s an insult to them that the FDA is simply allowing imitation products to skirt the rules and label themselves as dairy products when they are clearly not. The rules on this are straight-forward and the FDA needs to enforce them. Maine’s hardworking dairy farmers deserve no less.”

Current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations define dairy products as being from dairy cows. Although existing federal regulation are clear, the FDA has not enforced them, allowing the mislabeling of products as ‘milk’, ‘yogurt’ and ‘cheese’ to increase in recent years. Alternative products also often contain a range of ingredients that are often not as nutritional as dairy products.

The DAIRY PRIDE (Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday) Act would correct this problem by requiring the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days and require the FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment to hold the agency accountable for this update in their enforcement obligations. Any non-dairy foods that make an inaccurate claim about their milk contents would be considered misbranded and subject to enforcement. Additionally, the legislation would expand FDA’s definition of milk to include all hooved mammals.

Travis Fogler, a dairy farmer from Exeter and member of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., recently wrote an op-ed for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel endorsing the legislation and calling on the Maine Congressional Delegation to support it:

“Dairy farmers work extremely hard to follow our industry’s extensive regulations – including the Food and Drug Administration’s labeling laws specifying what milk is. So it’s frustrating to see these copycats take a handful of seeds or nuts, grind them into a paste, add emulsifiers and whiteners, sprinkle in a few nutrients and then pour the resulting concoction into a carton and call it ‘milk.’ All the camouflage in the world won’t produce the natural goodness of real milk,” Fogler wrote. “Unfortunately, the FDA has turned a blind eye to this growing practice. That’s why I support the Dairy Pride Act, new legislation in the Senate and House that simply asks the FDA to do its job and police the long-standing food labeling standards that clearly spell out what milk is.”

“I applaud Senator King for supporting the DAIRY Pride Act. As a Maine dairy farmer, mother, and consumer, it’s important to me to know that FDA regulations are enforced and carry with them an integrity and transparency that ensures our food system is one of the safest in the world,” said Jenni Tilton-Flood of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton. “While plant based beverages offer their own nutritional profiles and qualities, they truly are not real dairy milk as defined by the FDA, nor do they provide the unique natural goodness of real dairy. As a dairy farmer it can be frustrating to see the term misused and misappropriated by beverages seeking to define themselves, and, as a consumer, it leads to confusion as to what labels I can trust and what labels I should question. We take great pride on our family farm here in Clinton, Maine producing high quality milk for our neighbors’ tables, and we work hard to earn their trust and exceed the standards and requirements that are required of real dairy. We don’t expect anything less of other farmers and we don't expect anything less from those who make the rules. That’s why it’s time to enforce the rules.”

In 2015, Maine exported $17.3 million worth of dairy products, making dairy the second most prominent agricultural product in the state behind potatoes.

“I’m pleased to have Senator King join our bipartisan stand for America’s hardworking dairy farmers,” said Senator Baldwin. “Dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Maine and every corner of our country work tirelessly every day to ensure that their milk meets high standards for nutritional value and quality. Our legislation will ensure that imitation dairy products will no longer get away with using dairy’s good name for their own benefit.”

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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