Brindisi fights for dairy farmers, leads bipartisan effort to stop labeling non-dairy products as milk

Congressman Anthony Brindisi

Brindisi leads bipartisan group of freshman members asking FDA to crack down on milk imitators

As part of his work to help Upstate New York dairy farmers, Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) and John Joyce (PA-13) led a group of bipartisan freshman members of Congress to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take strong action against manufacturers who falsely label non-dairy products as milk.

In a bipartisan letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Brindisi and Joyce, along with Reps. Anthony Delgado (NY-19), Daniel Meuser (PA-09), Angie Craig (MN-02), Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Ben Cline (VA-06), Jim Hagedorn (MN-02), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), and Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), objected to the growing trend of imitation or substitute dairy products labeled with standardized dairy terms, saying it “has undermined consumer confidence, the very purposes of standards of identity for foods.”

“We urge you to make crystal clear that dairy imitators will not be considered in compliance with standards of identity if they merely add the name of a plant material in front of a standardized dairy term, or otherwise reference dairy terms,” wrote Brindisi and his colleagues. “Modifying the word “milk” with a plant product descriptor does not make the label accurate or appropriate.”

The FDA’s federal standard defines “milk” as coming from the “milking of one or more healthy cows.” Brindisi said the FDA says food labels are meant to “inform consumers about what they’re buying, and standards of identity are used to ensure that foods have the characteristics expected by consumers.”

“It’s simple: if comes from a cow, it’s milk; if it doesn’t, it’s not,” said Brindisi. “Why would we call a product something it’s not? Dairy farmers in Upstate New York set high standards for the milk they produce. Copycat products shouldn’t be able to profit off of their hard work.”

“As a dairy farmer, I take pride in the fresh, nutritious, and real milk I produce each and every day,“ said Neal Rea, Upstate New York dairy farmer and chairman of Agri-Mark, Inc., a dairy cooperative with many farmer-owners in NY-22.“Copycat products should not be able to misuse names like milk, cheese and yogurt in the marketplace. I appreciate Rep. Brindisi’s leadership on this important cause, which has strong bipartisan support, and I am hopeful that going forward, FDA will finally enforce existing dairy-label standards.”

In NY-22, the dairy industry supports nearly 4,000 direct jobs, more than $235 million in wages and generates an economic impact of $1.83 billion.

The full text of the letter to Commissioner Gottlieb is available here.

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