The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) applauds U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on the reintroduction of the DAIRY PRIDE Act, a proposal which would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days. The proposal, if approved, would mean that non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae could no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. Baldwin first introduced the bill in 2017 and is again pushing for its passage.
A recent research study commissioned by WCMA, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative shows the need for FDA enforcement, as it found that labeling causes consumer confusion over whether plant-based products are actually dairy foods and whether they offer the same nutritional value.
“When someone buys cheese, they’re expecting that product to have been made with real milk, not a nut or a bean,” said John Umhoefer, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association Executive Director. “WCMA members support Senator Baldwin’s work to enforce labeling standards and help consumers make well-informed choices at the grocery store.”
“Nothing compares to the taste or nutritional value of real milk and cheese, so it’s no wonder that the makers of plant-based imitators have labeled their products with dairy terms,” said Kim Heiman, President of Nasonville Dairy in Marshfield, Wisconsin. “The truth is, these products are very different, and consumers deserve to know it. We appreciate Senator Baldwin – and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers supporting the DAIRY PRIDE Act – for working to address confusion in the marketplace.”
Other WCMA members weighed in this week as well to share their support of the DAIRY PRIDE Act, calling for Congressional action to protect consumers and support the American dairy industry.
“We stand with dairy farmers by saying ‘no’ to the mislabeling of non-dairy products,” said Marieke Penterman of Marieke Gouda in Thorp, Wisconsin. “Corporations are taking advantage of a movement pushing for an ‘ethical’ way to consume products, ironically, by making false and unsubstantiated claims about their products. We thank Senator Baldwin for her work to support transparency in the marketplace, and to support the dairy industry.”
“American consumers are best served by clear labeling of their food. When they buy cheese, yogurt, and ice cream at the grocery store, they expect those products are made with real milk – not a plant-based imitator,” said Jeff Schwager, President of Sartori Company in Plymouth, Wisconsin. “We applaud Senator Baldwin’s work to increase clarity in the marketplace and encourage lawmakers to join in this important effort.”
"We make the world's best Paneer cheese because we use the world's best milk. Real milk. Labels that confuse consumers do not help anyone," said Paul Scharfman, President of Specialty Cheese Company in Reeseville, Wisconsin.
“Organic Valley applauds Senator Tammy Baldwin for her proposed legislation to ensure food products that use the word “milk” are actually from dairy animals. The nutritional advantages of actual dairy products are superior to plant-based juices and products, and we want to be sure that consumers do not get confused into thinking one can substitute for the other, said Adam Warthesen, Government Relations Manager for CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley. “Children especially need the full nutrition – protein, fat, calcium offered by dairy products. While Organic Valley has always supported choice in the marketplace, we support choices that are fully informed and fully transparent. When consumers believe that plant-based products are nutritionally equivalent to milk and other dairy products, this choice is misinformed.”
WCMA has also filed comments directly with the FDA expressing strong opposition to the use of dairy labels on plant-based products and requesting that the agency enforce labeling standards to prevent this practice.