Reason Roundup

Vegan-Milk Attack at FDA Gets Go-Ahead From Senate: Reason Roundup

Plus: "a remarkable and unusual temporary restraining order" against Google



Attempt to rein in milk madness fails. Can consumers tell the difference between dairy milk and its vegan alternatives, such as almond milk, cashew milk, and hemp milk? Consumers haven't been complaining: Sales of soy, seed, and nut milks have grown tremendously this decade. But this trend has the dairy industry worried, and it has gone crying to the government for help. Now senators and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are backing a ban on calling non-dairy beverages milk. They even want to stop businesses from using the term to describe animal milk that doesn't come from cows.

Democrats from Wisconsin first introduced the idea last year, with the so-called DAIRY PRIDE Act. This summer, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb took up the cause.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Cory Booker (D–N.J.) tried to stop the nut-milk madness this week. They introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have prohibited "the use of funds to enforce standards of identity with respect to certain food."

"No one buys almond milk under the false illusion that it came from a cow," Lee said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "They buy almond milk because it didn't come from a cow."

Lee mentioned Hampton Creek, the company behind vegan mayonnaise Just Mayo. It "was one of hundreds of increasingly popular alternative foods developed in recent decades, marketed to vegetarians, vegans, and people with food allergies or other health concerns," he said Lee. But then,

as soon as Just Mayo started to win confidence, it started to attract the attention of top executives in the egg industry. Unfortunately, their intent was not to improve quality or reduce prices. It was, instead, to enlist the government in a pattern that would chill competition.

That pressure from the American Egg Board did indeed lead the FDA to go after Hampton Creek, but the product was eventually able to keep its name with some labeling concessions. "Under a 1938 Federal law," Lee explained, the FDA has set "rules defining what does and does not qualify as a particular food product" and "anything calling its 'mayonnaise' has to have eggs in it."

The new FDA rule "would ban the use of the term 'milk' for nondairy products" because "the FDA says milk is 'lacteal secretion…obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows,' and nothing else," said Lee.

Whatever their original value, these labeling requirements are outdated and they are unnecessary. The amendment I am offering would protect consumers from these 'standards of identity' requirements, and they would protect them from this kind of abuse….The role of government in the market is to protect competition, not any one competitor.

The Lee-Booker amendment would have stopped federal funds from being used to enforce "rules against products simply because of their use of a common compound name—such as where a word or phrase identifies an alternative plant or animal source," said Lee "In other words, it would protect products like 'almond milk,' 'goat cheese,' and 'gluten-free bread' from accusations of being illegally labeled."

The amendment was voted down 84–14. The 14 dissidents included three Democrats and nine Republicans, including 2016 presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.

"Must all language be literal?" asks Jibran Khan at National Review:

The FDA's new stance would seem to suggest so. The pulpy juice of coconut has been called "coconut milk" for generations, because of its appearance. Peanut "butter" does not come from miniature cows. Gold and silver "leaf"—used for decoration in some teas, liquors, and desserts across the world—is not made of leaves at all, but from thinly hammered foils of those metals. People buy and use these items, and have for centuries, while fully understanding what it is they're dealing with. Likewise, I don't know of any case in which a customer has purchased soy or almond milk and then been outraged to discover it is not cow's milk.

Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin does not agree. Speaking Wednesday, the senator called Lee's amendment "an attack on dairy farmers across the country and in my home state of Wisconsin." Taking federal action against non-dairy milk, she insisted, "ensures that when a consumer buys a dairy product, it will perform in recipes as expected."


Euro-style "right to be forgotten" coming quietly to America? In Hudson County, New Jersey, "Presiding Judge Jeffrey Jablonski has issued a remarkable and unusual temporary restraining order," writes The Volokh Conspiracy's Eugene Volokh. The judge says Google must "de-index [an] 'explicit' post-assault image from searches of 'Greg' and 'Gregory Malandrucco' and/or 'Malandrucco" and stop permitting "the display of the subject image":

The court papers make clear that the order is targeted largely at a Chicago Tribune blog post by columnist Eric Zorn about a police assault on Malandrucco and his friend Matthew Clark; the column contains photos of the two men with injuries to their faces. (The order was issued July 6, but I found it, with the help of the invaluable Lumen Database, only a few days ago, and just got the court documents; the order has apparently not been written about anywhere else.) Google has apparently not complied, and Malandrucco has asked Judge Jablonski to hold Google in contempt of court; the hearing on that will be held Aug. 17. Indeed, the request for the contempt sanctions, filed July 25, seems to have been accelerated by a remark by the judge at a hearing on July 24: "The concern that the court has is that there is not compliance with the [July 6] order."

Read the whole thing here.


Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. The economy might be growing, but "corporate tax receipts are down for the year, while government spending is up," notes NPR:

Even with a fast-growing economy, the Treasury Department expects to borrow more than $750 billion to pay its bills during the last six months of this year. "The federal budget deficit is ballooning, skyrocketing, soaring, whichever way you want to describe it," said longtime fiscal watchdog Stan Collender, who blogs about federal finances as "The Budget Guy."

"You've got a kind of perfect storm here," Collender said. "You've got more spending. You've got less revenue. And the deficit is just getting bigger and bigger, to the point where it will be at least a trillion dollars every year during the Trump administration and beyond."


• Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said it will not detain pregnant women in their third trimester "absent extraordinary circumstances." But "the agency appears to be violating that policy, over and over again," reports The Daily Beast.

• The unemployment rate is down to 3.9 percent.