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The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has submitted a citizen petition urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to "[e]nforce existing 'imitation' labeling requirements against nutritionally inferior non-dairy substitutes for standardized dairy foods that are named and positioned as forms of 'milk,' 'yogurt,' 'cheese,' 'ice cream,' or 'butter,' yet fail to provide the 'imitation' disclosure statement that is required." The petition's introductory letter argues that its recommended actions "are necessary to ensure that consumers are adequately informed concerning the material differences between standardized dairy foods (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, butter) and the wide variety of non-dairy substitutes that are available in the marketplace which are identified through the misappropriation of terms that have been defined by standards of identity to identify standardized foods that meet specified compositional, nutritional, or functional requirements." The debate over dairy and non-dairy substitute labeling extends to Canada, where a creamery has reportedly…

A group of members of Congress, led by Reps. John Joyce (R-Pa.) and Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), have urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce "regulations defining what may be labeled a dairy product, to combat the proliferation of imitation and substitute dairy products in the marketplace that undermine FDA regulations by using standardized dairy terms on non-dairy products." "Dairy product terms convey specific information for consumers on nutritional content and ingredient performance. Put simply, imitations and substitutes do not meet these standards, nor do they have any standardized requirements for nutritional content, composition, and processing, unlike the dairy products they seek to imitate. Most importantly, they are not sourced from cows or other lactating mammals as required by the standards we referred to up above," the letter asserts. "Giving this ongoing problem, we are pleased that FDA now plans to act. We urge you to make crystal…

A consumer asserts that Miyoko's Kitchen Inc.'s "vegan butter" misleads consumers into believing the product is "a 'form' of butter" despite lacking "any milk or dairy ingredients and the functional, nutritional, sensory and organoleptic attributes which consumers associate with butter." Brown v. Miyoko's Kitchen Inc., No. 18-6079 (E.D.N.Y., filed October 30, 2018). The products "bask in dairy's 'halo' by using familiar terms to invoke positive traits—including the significant levels of various nutrients typically associated with real dairy foods," the complaint alleges. The plaintiff argues that consumers "prefer butter over its imitators" because of its "unique and unduplicated taste," "mouthfeel" and "ability to enhance the texture of and other qualities of (mashed) potato products." "The plant-based Product is not butter because it is derived from coconut (lauric) oil and nut ingredients, among others, and lacks any fat derived from cow's milk," the plaintiff argues. The product meets U.S. Food and Drug…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has upheld a Wisconsin law requiring butter sold within the state to bear a grade issued by a Wisconsin-licensed butter grader or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Minerva Dairy Inc. v. Harsdorf, No. 18-1520 (7th Cir., entered October 3, 2018). The Ohio dairy challenging the law alleged it violated the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin. The appeals court first found that the statute does not violate substantive due process or equal protection because the law is “rationally related to at least two conceivable state interests”—consumer protection and promotion of commerce. Turning to the dormant Commerce Clause allegation, the court found that the law does not have a discriminatory effect on interstate commerce. The dairy argued that requiring out-of-state…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has solicited public input on questions related to plant-based substitutes for dairy products such as almond or soy milk. The agency's request for information (RFI) seeks responses on three points: "How do you use plant-based products?" "What is your understanding of dairy terms like milk, yogurt and cheese when they are used to label plant-based products?" "Do you understand the nutritional characteristics of plant-based products? Do you know how they’re different from each other? Do you know how their nutritional qualities compare with dairy products?" "The RFI opened today is an important step in our efforts to take a look at how we have been applying the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act with respect to food names and our existing standards of identity," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "The comments we receive will help inform the development of draft guidance…

Following his related statements at a conference, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has announced that the agency will review the standardized identities of dairy products and products marketed as their substitutes, including beverages made from almonds, rice or soy. The announcement suggests that allowing the plant-based substitutes to be labeled as “milk” has caused confusion among consumers and led to detrimental effects on children. “We’re going to have an active public process for reviewing our standard and how consumers understand the use of terms like milk on both animal-derived and plant-based products," Gottlieb said in the announcement. "We want to see if the nutritional characteristics and other differences between these products are well-understood by consumers when making dietary choices for themselves and their families. We must better understand if consumers are being misled as a result of the way the term milk is being applied and…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Ornua Foods North America misleadingly marketed its Kerrygold butter as produced from grass-fed cows because the cows are fed for part of the year with soy, corn and other grains. Myers-Taylor v. Ornua Foods N. Am., No. 18-1538 (S.D. Cal., filed July 6, 2018). The plaintiff asserts Ornua charges a premium based on the grass-fed-cows claim because butter produced from grass-fed cows purportedly contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, butyric acid and vitamins A and K2 than butter from grain-fed cows. Claiming violations of the California consumer-protection statutes, breach of express warranty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution, damages and attorney's fees.

A federal court has granted summary judgment to Wisconsin in an Ohio dairy's lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin law requiring butter to be graded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture or a state-licensed grader violated the commerce, due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Brancel, No. 17-0299 (W.D. Wis., entered February 5, 2018). In its complaint, the dairy alleged that small companies are unable to afford USDA grading or the creation of separate packaging solely for Wisconsin sales, effectively blocking them from the state’s market. Finding that Wisconsin has a legitimate government interest in requiring grading labels on butter packages to assure consumers of product quality, the court held that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection or due process clauses. The court reasoned that the law does not give Wisconsin butter makers "a categorical ‘competitive advantage over their counterparts outside the…

From the rise in food allergies to the changing economics of agriculture and animal husbandry, documentary series “Rotten” examines a range of factors that affect the food and beverage industry. Episodes include "Lawyers, Guns & Honey," which explores how foreign honey enters the U.S. market; "Big Bird," which documents the effects of JBS' purchase of Pilgrim's Pride on U.S. poultry farmers; and "Milk Money," which examines the benefits and risks linked to the sale of raw milk. The final episode, "Cod is Dead," details the effects of catch limits on commercial fisheries and reviews the case of Carlos Rafael, the "Codfather." Since the release of "Rotten," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reportedly sought to prevent Rafael and his businesses from reentering the fishing industry after he is released from prison.

After secretly filmed footage of an Idaho dairy farm drew national attention and threats against the owners, the Idaho legislature passed a law criminalizing entry, records access and the creation of recordings of agricultural production operations. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and 15 other plaintiffs challenged the law, and a federal district court invalidated it in 2015. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit has held that while two of the law’s provisions are “staggeringly overbroad” restrictions on speech, the other two survive scrutiny and do not violate the First Amendment. Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Wasden, No. 15-35960 (9th Cir., entered January 4, 2018). The panel held that Idaho cannot criminalize misrepresentations made to enter a production facility, partly because the language was overbroad and partly because it was targeted at investigative journalism. “Even assuming Idaho has a compelling interest in regulating property rights and protecting…

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