The Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), Madison, Wis., both issued statements on the Feb. 15 confirmation of Dr. Robert Califf as FDA commissioner.

“On behalf of IDFA members who make and distribute healthy and nutritious dairy products throughout the United States, we congratulate Dr. Robert Califf on his confirmation as FDA commissioner,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “IDFA encourages Dr. Califf to put the ‘F’ back in the FDA by focusing attention on making FDA more efficient and nimbler for consumers and more responsive to the feedback of industry. The FDA is one of the most important regulatory agencies within the federal government because it ensures the safety and security of our nation’s food supply.

“For decades, FDA leaders have promised to modernize food standards while allowing food makers more flexibility for innovation in response to shifting consumer demands and trends,” he continued. “However, food standards have become more complex and onerous, [and] the FDA’s response times on pending rules and petitions [have] increased and promises to streamline rulemaking have not been kept. IDFA and our member companies are hopeful for a more collaborative relationship with FDA on matters of food safety, food standards, labeling, and nutrition and health.

“As a cardiologist, Dr. Califf has a keen understanding of the impact of diet on human health,” Dykes added. “We hope that as FDA continues to refine its regulatory positions, FDA experts not only recognize dairy’s crucial role in a healthy diet beginning at a very young age, but also allow research showing the benefits of dairy fat to be considered in federal nutrition guidance. No other type of food or beverage provides the range and density of nutrients that dairy contributes to the American diet.

“IDFA congratulates Dr. Califf on his confirmation and looks forward to a productive relationship with FDA under his leadership,” he said.

WCMA, meanwhile, said it eagerly anticipates working with Califf to enforce the agency’s own standards on the labeling of imitation dairy products. In response to questions from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) during his confirmation hearing in December, Califf said that he would commit to ensuring transparency in labeling.

“We’re encouraged by Commissioner Califf’s assertion that truth in food labeling is a fundamental priority,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA’s executive director. “WCMA urges FDA to move quickly to enforce the agency’s existing standards and regulations, remedying years of inaction. Real dairy and cheese offer nutritional benefits and great taste that just can’t be beat, and consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re buying and serving to their families.”

A consumer study, sponsored in part by WCMA, has shown that one-quarter of people believe real milk is present in plant-based foods that mimic cheese. One-third of those studied think plant-based mimics contain protein, though imitators have little to no protein. One-quarter think plant-based mimics are lower in calories or fat, and have fewer additives, but neither perception is true, WCMA said.