Soy and Almond drinks that bill themselves as “milk” may need to consider alternative language after a top regulator suggested the agency may start cracking down on the use of the term.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb talked about the plans this week, noting there are hundreds of federal “standards of identity” spelling out how foods with various names need to be manufactured.
“The question becomes, have we been enforcing our own standard of identity?” Gottlieb said about “milk” at a Politico event Tuesday. “The answer is, probably not.”
The FDA definition used for purposes of labeling specifically states that milk is a product which comes from milking a cow. However, the dictionary definition extends to milk as being a product of other animals and even plants.
Michele Simon is the Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association out of Oakland, California. The trade association represents more than 100 of the leading plant-based food companies in the U.S. that make alternative food products to meat, egg, and dairy.
"Our position is that companies that are using those labels are doing so to reach consumers that are looking for alternatives to dairy products,” Simon said.
The FDA commissioner’s remarks on labeling are welcomed by both advocates from both the dairy and non-dairy industries. After years complaints over labeling violations, the National Milk Producers Association released a statement in support of the FDA commissioners remarks.
“Califia Farms is a strong supporter of federal guidelines for the labeling of its products,” said Califia Farms spokesperson, Patrice Radden. “We also believe that consumers are savvy enough to know the difference between plant-based milks and dairy milks.”
While Almond and Soy are perhaps the most popular dairy milk alternatives, there are dozens of other plant-based beverages that coin themselves nondairy milk. Pea, macadamia, tigernut, cashew, oat, coconut, rice, hemp, hazelnut, and flax to name a few.
Some consumers are choosing these products because they don’t have cholesterol, saturated fat, or lactose which is known to cause cramps or gas for some, according to Simon.
Cow’s milk provides nine essential nutrients and more nutrients than plant-based alternatives, according to The Dairy Alliance. Dairy farms nationwide have been struggling in recent years because of declining sales and falling milk prices.
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