FDA to No Longer Allow Dairy Alternatives to Be Labeled “Milk”

By M. Russo — Published July 23, 2018

FDA to No Longer Allow Dairy Alternatives to Be Labeled “Milk”

The US Food and Drug Administration is considering a crackdown on nondairy beverages that label themselves as “milk.” At last week's Politico Pro Summit,  FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb questioned whether standards of identity are being violated by companies marketing and labeling almond, soy, oat, rice,  coconut, and other beverages as milk.

According to the FDA,  the definition of milk is “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows."  Such a definition, therefore, cannot cover plant-based dairy alternatives. Of note, though cows are specially mentioned in this definition, the FDA does allow milk from other animals,  such as goats, to be labeled as such.

source: shutterstock

FDA press officer Deborah Kotz said that "food names inform consumers about what they're buying, and standard of identities ensure that food meets certain standards in terms of what's in it."  The Milk Producers Federation has been intensifying its lobbying efforts recently in order to put an end to non-dairy alternatives labeling themselves as milk.
Bruce Friedrich,  Co-founder of The Good Food Institute, which advocates for plant-based based alternatives,  argues, however, “For the same reason that you can have gluten-free bread and rice noodles, almond milk and soy milk are the most clear and best terms for describing those products.”

The FDA says they will begin to issue guidelines to companies currently marketing their plant-based beverages as milk next year as they pursue stricter labeling enforcement.  Or is not known yet whether alternative dairy products such as yogurts and ice creams will also be affected.

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