Pennsylvania ‘fake milk’ concerns get a (minor) spotlight in D.C.

Cows from a dairy farm in Central Pennsylvania. (Dani Fresh for WHYY)

Cows from a dairy farm in Central Pennsylvania. (Dani Fresh for WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s dairy industry woes are finding their way to a national stage.

Milk sales are down. And in Pennsylvania and other major dairy states, the situation is getting difficult for farmers.

That’s why last year, State Sen. Ryan Aument sponsored a resolution urging federal lawmakers and the Food and Drug Administration to axe the word “milk” from drinks made from things like nuts, oats or soy.

The Lancaster Republican argues playing fast and loose with that label could mislead consumers.

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“There may be tremendous benefits to almond quote-unquote ‘milk,'” he said. “I don’t care for it but there may be tremendous benefits for consumers. But it’s not milk.”

Aument’s main beef, though, is economic.

“Certainly, this is not a silver bullet as it relates to the challenges the dairy industry faces. But I think it is an important message for farmers to be able to communicate,” he said.

The resolution passed. The FDA didn’t seem moved.

But now, Blair County GOP Congressman John Joyce has sent a similar letter to the agency.

He’s using his expertise as a doctor to argue the flexibility of the label “milk” could be a public health issue.

“Consumers should be able to feel confident that they are getting the proper nutritional value from their dairy products and enforcing these federal regulations is necessary for that to occur,” he wrote.

Aument is glad he’s not alone in his dairy crusade.

“I’m extremely pleased they’re taking up this issue,” he said. “This is a federal issue and it needs to be solved federally.”

Aument did concede, consumer tastes may just be shifting away from milk.

But he said he thinks this will help keep people cognizant of what they’re buying.

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