The Lead

That’s ‘plant-based drink’ — not ‘milk’ — to you, freshman GOP U.S. Rep. John Joyce says

By: - February 11, 2019 10:08 am

Reminding us that everyone’s got their something, a first-term Republican congressman from Pennsylvania has launched a one-man crusade against … almond milk.

As The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., reports, U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, joined with nine of his colleagues recently to send a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, urging it get tough on plant-based drinks (Yer almond-based, yer soy-based, yer coconut-based) and get them to drop “milk” from their labels, the newspaper reported.

“The ongoing lack of enforcement of existing dairy-product terms … has undermined consumer confidence, the very purposes of standards of identify for foods,” the letter reads.

Joyce’s north-central Pennsylvania seat, which sprawls across 10 counties is home to nearly 20 percent of the state’s dairy farms, the newspaper further notes,  which means he has a dog … or at least a cow … in this hunt.

“In visits to dairy farm after dairy farm, I have heard about the lost revenue that plant-based dairy imitators have taken on our economy, and it is incredibly urgent we continue to monitor the subject,” Joyce said in a statement released to the newspaper. “Partnering with the FDA to continue to revive Pennsylvania’s dairy industry is one of my top priorities this term.”

In case you’re wondering, the dairy industry, which is having a bit of a time of it right now, has been pushing for months to get Washington to clamp down on non-cow produced “milk” products.

More from Vox:

“‘An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess,’ declared Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb this summer at a Politico summit.

“This droll observation was music to the ears of the $35.5 billion US cattle milk industry, which lately has been challenging the $1.6 billion plant-based milk industry’s right to use the word “milk.” Gottlieb seems to be sympathetic: His agency has proposed enforcing its own labeling rules for milk, which could prevent producers of almond milk and oat milk from continuing to use the term.

“But plant milk producers scored a key victory on Thursday. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that calling almond milk “milk” is not deceptive, upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit called Painter v. Blue Diamond Growers.

“’Painter’s complaint does not plausibly allege that a reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing that Blue Diamond’s almond milk products are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk based on their package labels and advertising,’” according to the opinion.

“At stake are what the FDA calls “standards of identity,” legally binding definitions of products to ensure consumers know what they are getting. In March, the FDA launched a strategy to update these standards “in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science.”

Milk has a complicated, jargon-filled standard of identity, but in short, the FDA says it is ‘the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.’”

But what about goats? Hmmm …

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.