Bill would limit labeling of non-mammal ‘milk’

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OLYMPIA — Newly proposed legislation would make it illegal to sell products called milk that are not produced by mammals.

Almond milk, oat milk, and other non-dairy milks could not be referred to or marketed as milk under SB 5349. The prime and sole sponsor of the measure is District 42 Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

“This is a product safety and consumer education bill,” said Ericksen.

South Carolina recently passed legislation similar to what Ericksen proposed, but with a provision that enforcement would not be required until neighboring states passed similar legislation.

Ericksen said he is open to amending the bill to add something similar and to clarify what the Department of Agriculture would need to do to be in compliance with the bill.

“People have the right to know what they’re putting in their bodies,” said Ericksen.

The Northwest Dairy Association’s Dan Coins said people are being “fooled by the imitation milks,” which, according to him, is reason the association is in support of this bil.

The bill touches on a national debate between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and milk producers. According to the National Milk Producer’s Federation (NMPF), the FDA is not enforcing their own regulations on the definition of milk.

The FDA’s definition of milk is “milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.”

Ericksen hopes passing this legislation will send a message to the FDA that Washington wants federal milk definition regulations.

The issue is not a new one, in July 2018, at a Politico Pro Summit, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb questioned whether the standard of calling a product milk is being enforced correctly.

This is not an issue that is unique to dairy alone, as Missouri has passed legislation to regulate the term “meat.”

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