Other products could not use the word ‘milk’

OLYMPIA — Proposed legislation would make it illegal to sell “milk” products not produced by mammals.

Almond, oat and other non-dairy “milks” could not be referred to or marketed as milk under Senate Bill 5349 whose prime and sole sponsor is District 42 Sen. Doug Ericksen, R- Ferndale.

“This is a product safety and consumer education bill,” Ericksen said Jan. 29 at a public hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee. 

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

Ericksen said he is open to amending his bill to add something similar and to clarify what the state Department of Agriculture would need to do in compliance with the bill. No fiscal note was requested on the bill, so under the current version no state funding is required. 

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

“Really people are being fooled by the imitation milks,” said Northwest Dairy Association representative Dan Coins. That is a reason the Darigold cooperative supports this bill defining and clarifying what can be considered milk.

The bill touches on a national issue with the Food and Drug Administration and milk producers. According to the National Milk Producers Federation, the FDA is not enforcing its own rules on the definition of milk.

The FDA defines milk as “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 State wants federal milk definition regulations enforced. 

This issue made national headlines in July 2018 when, at a Politico Pro Summit, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb questioned whether the standard definition of a milk product is being enforced correctly.

The bill has not progressed out of committee.