FDA: Oat, almond milk can be called ‘milk’

You can still call your plant-based milk milk.

In draft guidance released on Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that several types of plant-based “milk,” from oats to macadamia nuts and almonds, can use the word “milk” on labeling.

The guidance was shelved amid efforts by the dairy industry (at least since the late 1990s) to ban plant-based milk alternatives from being labeled “milk”. At one point, it was even banned in the European Union to call plant-based milk creamyalthough it was scrapped, by Food Navigator.

According to the agency’s research, which includes such things as surveys and focus groups, “Consumers understand that plant-based milk alternatives are dairy-free when purchasing various types of products labeled with the term,” the agency wrote in its guidance.

The FDA can issue legally binding guidance based on laws passed by Congress, and it can also issue non-binding guidance, as it did in this case. But it is likely that the industry will follow the rules proposed by the FDA, The New York Times newspaper reported.

Dairy industry representatives lobbied Congress for a bill that would narrow the definition of what could be called milk to what comes from “animals with hooves,” called the Dairy Pride Act in 2017. It didn’t make it through committees.

Regardless of industry sentiments, alternative milk consumption has steadily increased.

According to a 2021 Morning Consult survey, about 1 in 3 consumers use non-cow’s milk at least once a week.

Milk consumption has dropped by nearly half since 1970, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

National Dairy Farmers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern expressed disappointment with the draft guidance.

“Today’s announcement by the FDA is a step towards labeling integrity for dairy consumers, even if it fails to end the problem of decades of misleading plant-based labeling using dairy terminology,” Mulhern said in a statement. communicated.

“We reject the agency’s circular logic that past inaction by the FDA’s labeling enforcement now justifies the labeling of such beverages,” he added.

However, the FDA said manufacturers could put notes on their labels indicating whether plant-based milk has lower or different levels of nutrients like magnesium, potassium or vitamin B12 than regular milk.

“The FDA recommends using these statements to help consumers understand certain nutritional differences between milk and plant-based alternatives that use the term ‘milk’ in their name,” the agency wrote.

The FDA is receiving comments through April 24, after which it will release its final guidance.

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