Leave it to Congress to start arguing over the semantics of milk products while our country is facing one of the craziest upheavals in history. Thirty-two members recently signed a letter urging the FDA to bar alternative milk products (i.e. soy, almond, coconut, etc.) from being called “milk.” It seems pretty clear that their sudden strong feelings about this issue come down to — what else? — money.
According to Food & Wine, the National Milk Producers Federation’s political action committee increased its donations to politicians in the last election cycle (from $88,650 three years ago to $115,750), as did the International Dairy Foods Association (from $269,072 in 2014 to $324,231 in 2016). Twenty-seven of the lawmakers who signed the FDA letter have received funding from dairy lobbying groups — surprise, surprise.
The members allege that nondairy milks have become so popular — with sales growth of 250 percent in the past five years — because they’re mislabeled and people mistake them for regular milk. (I guess Congress assumes consumers aren’t smart enough to read the big “ALMOND” “SOY” and “CASHEW” on the cartons). Dairy milk sales, meanwhile, dropped 11 percent last year.
When no one replied to the letter, presumably because there are a few other things happening in our country right now, the Congress members introduced the “Dairy Pride Act,” which would push the FDA to take legal action against companies that make nondairy milk, yogurt and cheese and use those terms to describe their products. Wow.
Luckily, two federal judges rejected claims that nondairy products using the terms milk, yogurt, butter and cheese are mislabeled. One judge said: “A reasonable consumer would not assume that two distinct products have the same nutritional content.” Thank you, judges!
Now that this nonsense has been shot down, maybe Congress will lay off the soy milk and start, oh, I don’t know, making sure American kids aren’t going hungry?