Matt Nuckols Column: Imposters Can’t Compete with Real Milk, Nature’s Perfect Food

milk2From the Richmond-Times Dispatch

By Matt Nuckols of Eastview Farm, Hanover County Farm Bureau member:

As a dairy farmer, I provide my neighbors, friends and family with milk; it is my livelihood, and I work hard to do it right. Dairy farmers must follow stringent regulations to ensure we deliver a high-quality, consistent and safe product with nine essential nutrients. If I don’t follow sanitation and hygiene rules, my dairy operation could be hit with a fine, or even shut down.

What’s ironic is that the same federal agency that oversees regulations for milk production is failing to enforce other regulations for how imitation dairy products are labeled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has chosen not to enforce a rule that’s been in place for years: Any food product labeled “milk” (including foods like cheese, ice cream and yogurt) must be sourced from an animal. In the absence of this enforcement, more and more imitation products have ignored the law by calling their nutritionally inconsistent products “milk.” Milk is nature’s perfect food, and that just can’t be easily replicated using plants and nuts.

 The DAIRY PRIDE Act (DPA), introduced this January in the House and Senate, would force the FDA to do its job and police dairy-alternative companies that want to benefit from the positive health image of milk without offering the same levels of vitamins, minerals and protein. I urge my elected officials to support an issue that deeply affects Virginia’s dairy producers.

This bill would not create a new law or increase government oversight of food labeling. The DPA simply asks the companies that make imitation dairy products to respect an already existent law, and for the FDA to intervene if the companies don’t.

For hundreds of years, Virginia’s dairy producers have delivered a product with clear and consistent benefits. Milk contains nutrients that aid in bone health, digestion and muscle recovery. Because of milk’s tried and true reputation, some companies want to use the word “milk” on a label to imply that their imitations contain the same nutritional package as the real thing. But plant-based copycats do not match milk’s trustworthy nutrition profile, and certainly not across the 20-plus brands fighting for your attention on supermarket shelves. Peas, peanuts, rice, hemp, almonds, soybeans — these plant beverages have their place in the market, but they should not be able to evade federal regulations in how they are labeled. The DPA would protect the integrity and proper usage of food labels.

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