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Insult To Consumers

October 10, 2018

Insult To Consumers

The Food and Drug Administration has many definitions covering food products that are meant to protect consumers by ensuring food quality. Those definitions are not meant simply to protect the market shares of particular industries, producers, processors or marketers. One of those definitions is for milk, which in the parlance of regulation is “lacteal secretions ... of one or more healthy cows.” The dairy industry is suffering a decades-long decline in the demand for the lacteal secretions ... of healthy cows. Three decades ago, the average American consumed about 247 pounds of milk and related products each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2016, that figure was 154 pounds. Fluid milk consumption has declined by 9.7 percent over the last five years, and even ice cream consumption has declined by 3.3 percent. Pennsylvania is the sixth-largest dairy state. According to the Center for Dairy Excellence, there are 6,570 dairy farms in the state, down by 80 since 2016, and 800 fewer than in 2012. The decline is driven by health concerns about dairy and a vast array of alternatives in the marketplace. But now, the FDA seems to believe the dairy industry’s logic that consumers somehow have been misled by the labeling of some of those alternatives. The agency plans to enforce the milk definition, which would result in the producers of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk and others having to change the names of their products to exclude the reference to milk. This is an insult to consumers, who understand that they are buying plant-derived products when they buy almond or soy “milk,” rather than the lacteal secretions of healthy cows. Forcing that change will not do anything to fulfill the FDA’s mission to ensure the quality of food products, nor will it do anything to improve the declining fortunes of the dairy industry. The FDA, which has begun to accept public comments on the proposal, should drop the proposal. And, it should not entertain any requests to stop references to Milk of Magnesia or walnut meat.

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