Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) re-introduced bipartisan legislation that requires the FDA to take enforcement action against manufacturers labeling nondairy products as dairy, according to representatives of Welch and Simpson.

The Dairy Pride Act would stop the use of dairy terms such as milk, yogurt and cheese on the labels of nondairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants and algae. The legislation would not prevent the sale of nondairy products, only their mislabeling as dairy products.

“Dairy farmers, already struggling to survive, are facing a growing threat due to the misleading practice of marketing plant-based products as milk and dairy products,” said Welch. “These products do not meet the FDA’s definition of a dairy product because they do not have the unique attributes and nutritional values provided by dairy. Our bill would require the FDA to enforce its existing definition of milk and dairy products so that consumers can make more informed choices.”

FDA regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals, yet the agency has failed to enforce its own regulations, the representatives said. Misleading labels are harming dairy farmers who strive to ensure their products meet FDA standards and provide consumers with nutritious products.

“For decades dairy farmers have called on FDA to simply enforce the law and follow its own standards designed to protect product integrity, marketplace transparency and the ability of consumers to make informed choices about what they feed themselves and their families,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, Arlington, Va. “The medical community is increasingly concerned about mislabeled dairy imitators that harm public health, while consumers demand honesty in labeling.

“The National Milk Producers Federation thanks Reps. Peter Welch and Mike Simpson for re-introducing the bipartisan Dairy Pride Act, which would make FDA do its job,” he continued. “Their leadership brought real progress last year, first with a legislative hearing and later with a bipartisan directive urging FDA to enforce dairy standards of identity. We hope to build on this work in the 117th Congress and ultimately solve this critical public health and fairness issue.”

The Dairy Pride Act would require the FDA to issue guidance on its enforcement of its regulations on mislabeled dairy products within 90 days and require the agency to report to Congress on its implementation of the law two years after its enactment.

The Madison, Wis.-based Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) also applauded the act’s re-introduction.

“Americans deserve clear, truthful labels as they choose the foods they buy and serve to their families,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA’s executive director. “We are grateful for Sen. Baldwin’s work to ensure greater transparency in the marketplace.”

The bill has 33 cosponsors in the House. Text of the legislation is here.