Kraft: Integrity of food labeling important for dairy farmers, milk consumers
August 4, 2017
Colorado's dairy farmers have to deal with a variety of challenges, from the weather and labor availability, to the volatility of feed and milk prices. But at the end of the day, the product that leaves our farm remains tried, true and consistent. Real dairy milk is wholesome, safe and full of nutritional benefits. This reputation is so powerful that other food items now want to market themselves as milk, even though they don't offer the same level of quality nutrition provided.
Dairy "copy-cows" made from nuts, beans, seeds — even hemp — are hijacking milk's name and imagery for use on their nutritionally inferior products, and unfortunately, the federal government turns a blind eye. It's time we preserved the integrity of food labeling by ensuring the Food and Drug Administration defends the definition of milk, cheese and other dairy foods from imposters using these terms on their products.
The Dairy Pride Act is the answer. This bill, introduced earlier this year in both the House and Senate, would require the FDA to ensure the proper use of dairy terms is policed by the agency. For decades, federal regulations have defined milk as an animal product. Most other nations have a similar law but actually enforce it, unlike the United States. I strongly encourage Colorado's lawmakers to support a bill that would ensure truth and fairness in food labeling.
First and foremost: The DPA bill would not create a new law. What the legislation does is require FDA to enforce its own rule and hold companies accountable for the labels they use on their products. Without such enforcement, food marketers can freely label their watered-down concoctions as "milk" when they are clearly anything but.
Not only do these plant "milks" not originate from an animal, but they lack the consistent package of nine beneficial nutrients that help with bone growth and muscle recovery — found in every glass of cow's milk. By comparison, almond "milk" involves mixing a handful of ground-up almonds with water, heaps of sugar and thickeners. There are more than a dozen almond "milk" brands on the market, and each one offers varying amounts of fortified nutrients, often with an ingredient list 15 items long. How can a product call itself milk when it fails to offer milk's natural, simple goodness? Milk has earned its reputation based on this; we cannot have any alternatives trying to use that reputation to their advantage.
Passage of the DPA also would mean keeping up with our international neighbors. In June, the European Union Court of Justice ruled any plant-based food products cannot use dairy-specific terms on their packaging. Canada and the United Kingdom also actively enforce their own food labeling laws, resulting in a grocery store shelf with plenty of almond "beverage" or "drink," but never any "milk." By comparison, U.S. enforcement is virtually nonexistent. The DPA would put our own regulators' feet to the fire.
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Let me be clear: Plant-based beverages and food products can have their place on supermarket shelves, and this legislation would not change that. We simply want to ensure a fair and truthful marketplace for all by ensuring our government adheres to its duties. Dairy farmers are a proud, hardworking group that diligently follows U.S. regulations and requirements. We only ask that our plant-based competitors do the same. ❖
— Chris Kraft, his wife, Mary, and son, Stratton, own and operate two dairy farms in Fort Morgan