Did you know almond milk does not come from cows? Did you also know soy milk is not the same as dairy milk?
Special interest lobbyists for the dairy industry would have you believe that ordinary citizens are in danger of dire dairy confusion from household plant-based “milk” products.
With the support of Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, Big Dairy is now pushing the Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, And Cheese To Promote Regular Intake Of Dairy Every Day Act, or (because this is apparently how acronyms work in Congress) DAIRY PRIDE Act. The bill would codify a ban on labelling non-dairy products similarly to dairy products—including milk, yogurt or cheese.
This bill is grass-fed, consumer-unfriendly proctectionism for your breakfast table. Despite the lip service to public health, Big Dairy’s real goal is to undermine economic competition from healthy, affordable plant-based products that are increasingly popular with consumers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American milk consumption is down 37 percent from 40 years ago, even as the alternative milk industry is poised to grow by 50 percent between 2015 and 2020.
The legal definition of milk already includes the dairy lobby’s preferred ban on “almond milk” and “soy milk” labeling:
“Milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows. Milk that is in final package form for beverage use shall have been pasteurized or ultrapasteurized, and shall contain not less than 8 1/4 percent milk solids not fat and not less than 3 1/4 percent milkfat.”
Violators of this rule are subject to thousand-dollar fines and up to three years imprisonment, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long refused to enforce it. This blind regulatory eye also ignores other technically illegal labels involving products like noodles, butter and bread (at press time, American cornbread remains safe from the machinations of Big Wheat—for now).
The Dairy Pride Act would end this milky era of benign neglect and finally force the FDA to combat the rise of the almonds and consumer choice. It would also run roughshod over the First Amendment right of plant-based product makers to effectively label their not-remotely-misleading products.
Ironically, Big Dairy supported Florida’s ban on labelling all-natural skim milk—i.e., skim milk without government-mandated artificial additives—against a challenge from the Institute for Justice and a small Florida creamery just last year. Dairy lobbyists even petitioned the FDA in 2013 to change milk’s federal definition so dairy companies could add aspartame without telling consumers on the label. The petition ultimately failed, but such efforts left the dairy lobby’s supposed concern about misinformation out to spoil.
The government’s role in regulating product labels is to prevent deception, not restrict free speech to benefit special interests. No reasonable consumer thinks almond milk comes from cows, so there is no need for the government to “solve” a problem that does not exist.