GREEN BAY, Wis. — Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative said Feb. 15 the group looks forward to working with newly confirmed U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to stop the mislabeling of imitation dairy foods.
The Senate confirmed Califf to the position, which had been vacant since President Biden took office a year ago.
Dr. Califf is a cardiologist who served as the FDA commissioner in the last year of the Obama administration. During Califf’s nomination hearing in December, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., asked him if he would commit to finalizing guidance on the use of dairy terms for plant-based products while preserving the use of dairy terms for dairy products. Califf responded by committing to making dairy labeling a priority if he was confirmed. “(There) is almost nothing more fundamental about safety than people understanding exactly what they’re ingesting,” he said at the time.
Edge President Brody Stapel said the cooperative shares that viewpoint.
“Dairy farmers completely agree with Dr. Califf that it is fundamental for people to know what they’re eating. The simple fact that the new commissioner has acknowledged that is a big step in the right direction,” Stapel said. “The FDA has strict standards of identity for dairy products, but the agency continues to refuse to enforce the rules. This should have been cleared up a long time ago.”
Mislabeling remains a top concern for his group’s members, said Stapel, whose co-op represents farmers throughout the Upper Midwest and is the third largest in the country based on milk volume. And, they want dairy customers to be treated fairly.
“There is room for a variety of products, and customers should have choices,” he said. “But the plant-based beverage industry is quick to dismiss the fact that misleading labels confuse customers. That’s unfair.”
A national survey co-commissioned by Edge documented the confusion when focusing on plant-based products packaged to resemble cheese. Some of the findings:
- One-quarter of customers mistakenly thought the plant-based products contain milk.
- One-third of customers believed that the products contain protein, and 21 percent thought that it is of a higher quality than dairy even though the imitations have little to no protein. Real dairy cheese has 7 grams of protein.
- One-quarter of customers purchased imitation cheeses because they believed them to be low in calories and fat and without additives. In reality, these plant-based foods contain an equal or comparable amount of fat and calories and substantially more additives than dairy cheeses.
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative provides dairy farmers throughout the Midwest with a powerful voice — the voice of milk — in Congress, with customers and within our communities. Edge, based in Green Bay, Wis., is the third largest dairy cooperative in the country based on milk volume. Member farms are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. More information: www.voiceofmilk.com.
— Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative