It’s high time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforce its own existing regulations that clearly define milk as originating from dairy animals. With FDA officials abdicating their roles, opportunistic marketers continue to feed upon dairy’s good name and sell knock-off, plant-based products as “milk,” “cheese,” “yogurt,” and “ice cream.” Along the way, misled consumers are shortchanged by imitation products that woefully under deliver protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients that real dairy products bring to the human diet.

Milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream are household terms describing dairy products. The National Dairy Council and subsequent organizations have spent over a century branding these terms as products made exclusively from dairy animals. Those efforts have paid off as consumers have a vivid picture of the great taste and nutritional value delivered by dairy.

Given the brand value with consumers, it’s no wonder marketers have climbed on board the marketing bus to feed off of dairy’s good name. The situation has escalated as of late as self-serving marketers have become more emboldened to play on dairy’s identity to peddle alternative products that deliver little to no health benefits.

On top of all this, these mislabeled foods confuse the consumer as so called almond and soy milks want it both ways . . . piggyback on the dairy brand, but then tout labels such as “dairy free,” “lactose free,” and “vegan”. This has taken place while most imposters print ingredient lists multiple lines long in contrast to dairy’s simple ingredient profile in an era where consumers want wholesome products with less processing and fewer chemical concoctions.

While there has been debate on enforcing FDA regulations for some time, some elected officials have said, “Enough is enough.” Late last year, a bipartisan coalition of 32 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter sent to FDA urging the agency to more aggressively enforce its existing regulations on dairy. One month later, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) developed the Dairy Pride Act; a Senate bill that would further protect the identity of food standards, in particular dairy.

With the national election past us, now would be the time for momentum to build on this topic. Everyone who depends on a milk check for their income should be calling their nationally elected leaders. With help from Congress, dairy producers could finally get FDA to do their job and to clear up confusion in the dairy aisle.

This editorial appears on page 88 of the February 10, 2017 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.