What’s ‘Milk’? Let Consumers Decide

For almost two decades, the dairy lobby has asked Washington to act on an issue of vital concern to the Republic: what is and is not “milk.”

The Food and Drug Administration has resisted the industry’s pressure, and declined to wade into the smackdown between cows and their competitors, which include “milk” made from soy, almonds, hemp, sunflowers, rice, and macadamia nuts.

In December, 32 fedpols wrote to the FDA, demanding, as Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) put it, that the bureaucracy “basically … enforce its own regulation,” since “regulation defines milk as something that comes from a mammary gland.” If the letter doesn’t work, there’s always the Dairy PRIDE Act — that would be the “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.”

No word yet on where the Trump administration stands on “real” milk, but the fight has come to New Mexico, with the drafting of SB 161. Sponsored by Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell) and Pat Woods (R-Broadview), the legislation makes it illegal to “misbrand” a product as “milk” if “its ingredients do not consist of the whole, clean, lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy mammals.”

Truth in advertising is quite valuable, but one needn’t be a supporter of deceptive marketing to doubt the need for SB 161. As the Good Food Institute‘s Joanna Grossman wrote earlier this month, the bill “not only raises serious concerns in terms of needlessly restricting commercial free speech, but it also runs the risk of being challenged on preemption grounds since state law cannot conflict with federal law (which, in this case, sets labelling standards for a wide range of food products).”

Nannying is another reason to be skeptical of SB 161. Bruce Friedrich, a colleague of Grossman’s at the institute, told The Washington Post that “Americans are savvier and they are better able to digest nutritional information. No consumer buys a carton of almond milk and thinks that there’s cow’s milk in the package.” One online commenter put it more succinctly: “This seems like a solution in search of a problem.”