FDA admits almonds don’t lactate, but here’s the rest of the story…

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They’re even taking her ‘moo!’ Investor-heavy high-tech startup companies are (with USDA’s help) taking her DNA to give food-grade yeast her protein-producing ability in a fermentation process to make “animal-free milk and dairy.” They’re editing her cells to grow muscle blobs in bioreactors for “animal-free boneless beef” and using her unborn bovine fetal serum as the culture media for the so-called ‘clean’ ‘animal-free’ cell-cultured meat growth. And they are taking her “moo” with website invitations to “join the ‘Moo’-vement or to get ‘moo-ving’ for all the dairy you love with none of the cows.” Meanwhile, FDA is poised — in a multi-year nutrition innovation strategy — to expand standards of identity for milk/dairy and meat/beef to accomplish nutrition innovation goals that, themselves, are being questioned and in the end may give these companies the license to steal. Photo by Sherry Bunting

FDA nutrition innovation strategy poised to ‘modernize’ how milk, beef defined as high-tech labs make cow-less versions of both

By Sherry Bunting for Farmshine, July 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As President Ronald Reagan famously said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Last week’s news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will “help” the situation of imitation milk labels was followed by specifics from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

He revealed in a live interview with Politico: “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”

Now there’s the sound bite everyone wants to hear, and the media and social media worlds went wild. But what does it really mean? Here’s the rest of the story and how to get involved.

Gottlieb said publicly that FDA plans to start gathering public comments before taking next steps in “redefining the rules for milk products”.

What he didn’t say in the Politico Pro Summit on July 17 is that FDA has already published a hearing and comment notice in the June 27, 2018 Federal Register for a July 26 hearing that covers three topics related to “modernizing” standards of identity, and the comment period ending August 27, 2018.

Will the government’s offer to ‘help’, in this case, result in more dishonesty and skulduggery, tricking consumers into eating what they may not otherwise choose and allowing investor-heavy startup companies to steal from farmers and ranchers, not only the identity of the products they produce, but also the very commodity-promoting checkoff dollars the government mandates they pay?

FDA already has a standard of identity for milk, and almost 100 dairy products, that it has chosen to ignore for more than a decade on any product except actual dairy milk.

Here’s the rub… If real dairy milk does not have added Vitamin D (when fat is removed Vit D is added to bring it back to full-fat levels of Vit. D), it can be deemed “mislabeled” by FDA and unable to call itself MILK.

But, if there are almonds and soybeans in your milking parlor — by all means, have at it,  label it milk — with or without Vit. D — not to mention without real milk’s levels of protein, quality amino acid profile and 9 essential nutrients.

You see, the standard of identity for milk is enforced when it comes from a cow, but not when it comes from a plant. And yet, because there is a standard of identity for milk — a nutritional and functional expectation — the plant-based knock-offs get to hijack that profile without being held to it and can selectively market from it with ‘more xxx’ or ‘free of xxx’ statements without stipulating what they are deficient in. (Example: Almond milk labels should say “88% less protein” if they are going to differentiate from the standard of identity they are hijacking).

By its own admission, FDA has maintained a non-enforcement posture on plant-based imitation beverages. Described as “enforcement discretion,” FDA has looked the other way and the dairy foods industry was either asleep at the wheel or developing imitations on the side, while these imposters were flooding the dairy case.

Meanwhile the companies investing in the imitations were free to do their market development and consumer confusion while securing space in the dairy case.

The timing of Gottlieb’s comments last week is even worse, given FDA’s launch of a multi-year nutrition innovation review as part of the agency’s nutrition innovation strategy revealed in March that seeks to expand standards of identity for products like milk and meat.

FDA meetings are happening quickly and quietly in various areas of imitation animal protein labeling and regulation. Yes, they are public meetings, but no one really knows about them.

Milk and dairy products have already been on the receiving end of identity-theft for more than a decade, and now that griddle is heating up to pancake both dairy farmers and ranchers (cattle are the target) with new plant-based mixtures, but even more horrifying are the genetically-edited cellular protein blobs or white-substance-exuding yeast grown in bioreactors yearning to be beef and milk.

There are new identity-thieves lurking about and guess what? USDA — the government — is the source of the bovine gene-edited cells and bovine gene-sequenced yeast in the heavily-investor-funded tech food startup companies that are the real focus of FDA’s recent moves.

With patents in hand — and funding from their big investors to scale up manufacturing — they seeking regulatory and labeling authority under FDA to be meat/beef and milk/dairy — without the cows.

FDA had a hearing on cell-cultured proteins July 12, and comments on regulation and labeling for this are due September 25.

A hearing on standards of identity was held by FDA on July 26 (after Farmshine press time), and comments are due August 27. (Look for more on this in next week’s Farmshine).

Dairy and beef producers need to become actively engaged in these moves by FDA because the main organizations that represent them — National Milk Producers Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — are on record stating these cell-cultured products should be subject to regulation under USDA like real meat and dairy. They are mainly seeking a level playing field in the marketplace, not opposing their classification as meat, milk, dairy.

(NMPF is vigorously defending milk’s standard of identity against plant-based imitations on nutritional grounds, but seeking a level playing field on the cell-cultured proteins).

Trust me, food and dairy manufacturing companies and investors have already hired the best and the brightest and are already involved in this FDA process — cheering for the other team.

Here’s an example: Perfect Day ‘animal-free milk’ is on the market after receiving its patent in February and raising $24.7 million in first-round startup funding from investors to scale-up manufacturing.

This company has a business-to-business (B2B) model, according to an interview with Reuters, and is already working with some of the world’s largest dairy food and beverage manufacturers. Its website states that the product is just like milk in terms of proteins, but without the cholesterol, saturated fats, lactose, and environmental impact of cattle. Just think what this portends for the dumping of even more fat-free real milk from the market.

In fact, a primary foreign investor indicated support for the Perfect Day (fake milk) startup because it aligns with United Nations Sustainability Goals for 2030. (There’s that S-word again. I hope we are paying attention to how the S-word and cattle are getting along these days). Continental Grain is a big investor in both the Memphis Meats (fake meat) and Perfect Day (fake milk) startups, while Cargill and Tyson are investors in the Memphis Meats startup.

These high-tech food sciences are attracting big high-tech investors at a rapid rate because they are viewed as “disruptor technologies,” and their websites and promotional materials hold nothing back. Milk, meat, beef, dairy – no words are off limits in their branding and marketing.

In effect, while the government forces dairy and beef producers to pay a checkoff tax for promotion of their commodities, beef and dairy — and the names of products associated with those commodities — the government is looking the other way or now potentially encouraging more identity-theft as techies enter the food space to market proteins using the dairy and beef profiles and images, without paying one dime.

As for Perfect Day, this fake-milk is made by genetically altering food-grade yeast, taking DNA from a cow and sharing its protein-producing qualities with the yeast. (Sourced from the USDA, the genetically-altered yeast are cultivated to produce ‘dairy’ protein).

This process results in a microbe that is combined with a sugar substrate (food for the microbe) to feed, grow and exude in a fermentation process the company says is like “craft-beer-style-brewing,” producing protein “building blocks” for making dairy milk, yogurt and cheese. Perfect Day’s website says: “Dairy reinvented: Sustainable. Kind. Delicious.”

The end game is to provide a ‘base dairy’ protein that looks and tastes like milk, for inclusion in manufactured dairy products like cheese, ice cream, pizza, yogurt, and to work “synergistically” with the dairy foods industry as — according to the website — “a complement to cow-based milk that takes some of the stress away from the factory-farming system, rather than replace dairy cows entirely.”

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Memphis Meats and other companies on the fake meat side are doing similar things with cell-culturing to grow cellular protein blobs in laboratory bioreactors.

In each case, the ultimate goal is to decrease the need for cattle — be they dairy or beef bovines.

Think about this for a moment. Even at a 1 to 3% inclusion rate in common dairy foods or ground beef, these lab-cultured proteins and genetically-altered yeast give processors even more control over supply, demand and pricing of milk as well as boneless beef, and if standards of identity allow this, or if FDA enforcement discretion looks the other way – consumers will never know the integrity of their food has been changed.

If FDA modernizes its standards of identity to accomplish the goals as outlined by Commissioner Gottlieb — including a reduction in saturated fat consumption despite revelations that saturated fats are healthful not harmful — it is entirely possible that FDA’s new guidance could allow these protein “innovations” in standardized dairy and meat products, without being considered mislabeled and with no indication to consumers.

Gottlieb has already established FDA’s desire to accomplish certain nutritional goals by spurring innovation with more “flexible” standards of identity.

Ahead of the July 26 hearing, FDA published its intention to cover three aspects in the standards of identity discussion: 1) Protecting consumers against economic adulteration; 2) Maintaining the basic nature, essential characteristics, and nutritional integrity of food; and 3) Promoting industry innovation and providing flexibility to encourage manufacturers to produce more healthful foods.

FDA’s Federal Register notice also says the following: “Our intent is that modernizing standards of identity to improve the nutrition and healthfulness of standardized foods will promote honest and fair dealing in the interest of consumers and achieve the goals of the Nutrition Innovation Strategy.”

How can FDA pursue this course in the face of what has been revealed in the past three to four years? It appears that bringing these B2B products to market, along with the FDA nutritional innovation strategy, are happening ahead of the battleground brewing for the next round of Dietary Guidelines.

It appears they want to modernize standards of identity for dairy within less than one year, to get them in place before the current flawed dietary guidelines are challenged in the 2020 cycle, which begins in earnest in 2019.

Numerous investigations and scientific reports and studies show that the saturated fat avoidance of more than 30 years was not only never proven to be healthful, it is now shown to be harmful. And the rhetoric from the United Nations and various Sustainability projects continues to focus on cattle as being bad for the planet, despite evidence to the contrary.

FDA wants comments that specifically talk about how the agency can use standards of identity to encourage the production of more healthful foods, to take into consideration technology, nutrition science and marketing trends, and to assess what consumers expect these standards to tell them.

Is FDA about to help the food industry blur the lines of food integrity to trick people into eating according to USDA/HHS flawed set of dietary guidelines (and UN environmental sustainability assumptions)?

That would be the ultimate dishonesty, and much worse than the 10-plus years of ignoring dairy identity theft already happening daily in the supermarket dairy case. Expanding the standard of identity, depending upon how it is accomplished, would give large, powerful, multinational food corporations a true license to steal.

Last week, the American Dairy Coalition (ADC) launched a “Protecting Milk Integrity Initiative” to advocate for the proper use of federally standardized terms established for the word “milk” on product labels. ADC is a coalition of dairy, ag and livestock producers, and they are devoting a branch of their organization to work specifically on “providing clarity and consistency for consumers across the nation,” the organization said in a July 17 news release.

ADC is getting the word out that it believes the dairy industry must speak up to ensure the FDA understands how important it is, not only for the current standard of identity for milk and dairy products to be upheld, but for it to be fully enforced — restricting the use of the word “milk” on all future plant-based or alternative product labels.

They point out that the price of milk continues to decline while sales of plant-based alternatives are up 61% over the past five years with projections of more market share gains in the future.

Don’t be fooled by FDA’s admission that almonds don’t lactate. Instead of the enforcement of milk’s standard of identity that dairy farmers have been waiting for, FDA has already quietly launched its process for modernizing standards of identity to achieve specific (and flawed) nutritional goals.

To comment on Docket No. FDA-2018-N-2381 for “FDA’s Comprehensive, Multi-Year Nutrition Innovation Strategy,” due August 27, 2018, use the docket portal at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2018-N-2381.

To comment on Docket No. FDA-2018-N-2155 for “Foods Produced Using Animal Cell Culture Technology, due September 25, 2018, use the docket portal at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2018-N-2155 .

To mail comments for either one, reference the appropriate docket name and number in your letter and mail to: Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852

In addition to commenting, a petition has been developed by the American Dairy Coalition’s Protecting Milk Integrity Initiative, and signatures are being collected to submit with public comments. ADC is also taking donations to raise funds to fight this cause.

More information about Protecting Milk Integrity Initiative, visit American Dairy Coalition

To learn more about the July 12 FDA cellular protein hearing (fake meat) and July 26 standards of identity hearing (fake milk), stay tuned to future editions of Farmshine for full reports ahead of the deadlines for commenting to FDA on both.

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CAPTIONS

FAKE MEAT and FAKE MILK

New Harvest and Memphis Meats testifed to FDA on July 12 that cell-cultured ‘meats’ are inevitable. They showed diagrams of how gene-edited bovine DNA and culture media are combined in bioreactors to make cellular blobs they want to call ‘boneless beef’ — without the cow. Similar diagrams can be found for Perfect Day and their phrase: ‘all the dairy you love with none of the cows’ at their website perfectdayfoods.com. Screenshot of materials displayed during FDA hearing by Sherry Bunting

Sweet Beginnings

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I had this idea many months ago to start a blog about the people, places an issues relating to the food we eat, and since I’ve spent my life as an ag journalist and avid photographer, the name of my blog is “foodography.”

I had the idea, the name, the framework, but it seems I’ve been too busy to jumpstart it. Today, I’ve been prodded to do my first post because of the confusion I see lately about milk. So I’m kicking off my foodographic blog with an opportunity to shed light on some of the controversey about a dairy / sweetener petition that has been talked about in social media and mainstream media the past few weeks.

Below are my dozen points of light… Please read and then use the link at the end to go to the FDA website to read the petition and to tell FDA what you think about non-caloric sweeteners in flavored dairy products and while you are at it, ask FDA to talk to USDA about its school lunch rules. Chocolate milk – and whole milk for that matter – is not the cause of childhood obesity.

1) I am an advocate for real foods, whole foods. The less artificial, the better, in my opinion. But I am also a busy mom who raised three kids and worked full time. I know what it’s like to be going 100 directions and still strive to put a healthy meal on the table. Today, I have grandchildren. I care what they eat and drink. Whole milk is, was, and forever shall be a staple in our house, period.

2) THE MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-HOME POINT: ***Dairy farmers work very hard 24/7/365 to ensure they are producing wholesome high quality milk, but by the time it reaches the store or the school cafeteria, the lowfat and nonfat varieties are not the flavorful creamy product that came from the cow! Farmers I talk to are frustrated by this and they are frustrated even further when they see headlines about the mere suggestion that certain sweeteners with a bad reputation could be put into their product, even though said non-calorie sweeteners would only relate to flavorings like chocolate, strawberry or fruit, and not to the milk itself! I don’t blame them for being mad. They want to sell unfooled-around-with milk, the best kind of course!

3) I do not approve of using aspartame in drinks intended for children. However, I would allow my kids (grandkids) to use stevia. Both stevia and the maligned aspartame are considered non-nutritive (which means no-calorie) sweetener alternatives to traditional caloric or nutritive sweeteners called sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

4) Current FDA standards of identity for milk and certain other dairy products do not allow the use of non-nutritive (no-calorie) sweeteners and this includes the flavorings that are added to make variations of these products (i.e. chocolate milk, which to me is no different than a marinated steak vs. a plain steak. One is pure from the animal and the other has a recipe of flavoring added!)

5) Most consumers – and even pediatricians – do not realize that whole milk is less than 4% fat to begin with. People think it’s 10%, even doctors are so misinformed.

6) Furthermore, the USDA school lunch program forces schools to reduce the lunch fat percentage to the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet so the milk that is offered is nonfat or 1% in order to meet the total lunch requirement. This is by REGULATION, even though current studies show kids who drink whole milk are leaner and that whole milk is better for the brain.

7) Because nonfat white milk is essentially tasteless, kids opt for the chocolate nonfat in the school lunch line. Now we have another wrinkle in the milk story: Starting in 2013, the USDA school lunch program is mandating reductions in sugar content of school lunches, so schools are forced to give up flavored milk if they can’t make their menus work. The full impact of this rule is YET TO COME.

8) #7 above is essentially one of the reasons the 2009 petition filed by IDFA and NMPF on non-nutritive sweeteners was revived four years later in 2013 and why FDA is now looking at it. It’s because the sugar rules will affect FLAVORED yogurt and FLAVORED milk servings in the school lunch program. Furthermore, older adults may want to limit their sugar intake and yet they may love a strawberry or chocolate milk. They can buy a flavoring at the store that is made with a non-nutritive sweetener and add it to their real milk at home, and that’s okay, but a bottler can’t do that right now and still call it “milk.” They have to change the name to chocolate or strawberry “milkshake” or “drink” or find a different name. Or in the case of a flavored yogurt sweetened with non-nutritive (no calorie) alternative they have to call it something else, like “smoothie”. 

9) In the case of the flavored milk beverage, this failure to observe standard of identity on the flavoring not the actual milk, puts the beverage in another “class” other than “class 1” for the purpose of milk pricing back to the farm.

10) The root problem is that whole-fat milk gets an unfair bad rap and should be promoted for its health benefits and surprising lack of fat less than 4%. The industry needs to stand firm and battle the increasing levels of misinformation. Chocolate milk sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap also, and should be touted for its perfect carb/protein ratio. The industry is doing that through promotion, but it needs to do more.

11) Sadly, the USDA school lunch regulators don’t care about the truth. They don’t care about whole foods or real foods. They are numbers people, bean counters, who want to see menus that add, subtract and multiply to the right mathematical answer! Meanwhile, Milk bottlers and dairy foods makers are trying to deal with these realities and to compete with other beverages and look-alikes that don’t have these standard-of-identity restrictions. For that matter, if milk has a standard-of-identity, how can crushed almond or soybean juice be called ‘milk’? But that’s another blog post!

12) For sure, Chocolate milk is not the cause of childhood obesity in this country. For that matter, kids could drink whole chocolate milk til the cows come home and it’s not the cause of childhood obesity. But, by the same token, the controversial sweetener petition is not affecting milk or yogurt or sour cream or any of the 17 products itself. It is specifically directed to the “use of any safe and suitable sweetener in the optional characterizing flavoring ingredients period.

13) This sweetener argument is sort of like arguing about what can be put in a marinade for a london broil if you want to call it beef at the grocery store. (i.e. London broil = real and pure beef) and the ingredients in a marinated London broil (beef plus whatever is in the marinade).  I read the label for those too, don’t you?

14) Read the petition here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012

15) Tell FDA what you think here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012