Consumers deserve properly labeled food products.
This is why I filed House Bill 2994 this year, which would amend the Oklahoma Milk and Milk Products Act to define Grade A milk and milk products to mean only that which comes from a cow, a goat or other hooved animal. The act would prohibit the labeling of a food product as milk unless it comes from such an animal. It also would require the State Board of Agriculture to establish and implement a plan to enforce this labeling on products that are sold commercially in the state.
I did this on behalf of dairy farmers here in the state and nationwide that are taking huge losses in the rise of plant-based products that use the milk moniker.
My bill would not in any way ban beverages that promote themselves as an alternative to milk, nor would this measure remove any product from any Oklahoma grocery store shelf. It would simply require truth in labeling. If a product is labeled milk it needs to come from a hooved animal.
Similar legislation has passed in other states including Maine, Maryland, North Caroline, Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas. Wisconsin has introduced a similar act.
An inaccuracy written into an editorial that first ran in the Muskogee Phoenix said this issue had been decided by the Supreme Court. It has not. The case they refer to is from 1938 and had to do with interstate commerce and not specifically with the labeling of milk or a milk product. No other case about the specific labeling of milk has risen to the Supreme Court, so no precedent has been set.
I got the request to run this bill from a farmer who happens to be a senator in Maine, where similar legislation has passed. He reached out to me because I’m a farmer too, and we both want to protect our state and national dairy farmers. He said his goal is to get his legislation passed in 14 states in an effort to get the U.S Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance or regulations that would prohibit the labeling of plant-based products as milk.
The FDA opened this issue up for public comment in June 2018 but has yet to issue such guidance or regulation. In the meantime, corporations such as Borden have declared bankruptcy and small dairy farmers throughout the nation are feeling the sting, with some losing their family farms.
I think that’s an issue worth fighting for, particularly being a lawmaker from a rural area of the state where farming and agriculture is a significant part of our economy and our way of life. I believe this bill will find broad support among our farmers and ranchers and those who represent their issues in this state.
Jim Grego serves House District 17, which includes Latimer, LeFlore and Pittsburg counties, in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Read the original article by State Representative Jim Grego at mcalesternews.com here.