WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The dairy industry is not happy with the popularity of many plant-based or dairy alternatives on the market.
- Products from plants such as soybeans, almonds, coconuts and other non-dairy products are called “milk” even if they don’t “lactate.”
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being pressured by some in the food industry to impose “standards of identity” for plant-based products and regulate the ability to label them as “milk.”
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained that the current FDA “standards of identity” reference “milk” to a lactating animal. He also confirmed, during the POLITICO Pro Summit on Tuesday, that the standards have not been implemented.
“An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess,” Gottlieb said.
Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a statement on Tuesday that the “NMPF welcomed Gottlieb’s recognition today that the labeling practices of many plant-based dairy imitators violate long-standing federal standards.”
“The marketing of non-dairy imitators must comply with federal standards of identity, and consumers should not be misled that these products have the same nutrition as real milk, yogurt, cheese and other actual dairy products,” NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern said in the statement.
The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization, welcomed Gottlieb’s statement hoping it would bring clarity to the issue.
“We are in complete support of Commissioner Gottlieb’s desire to ensure that consumers are informed, to foster competition on behalf of more nutritious foods, and to modernize the standards of identity,” said the organization in a statement.
“Almond milk and soy milk are the most clear (sic) and best terms for describing those products,” the institute added.
According to a Renub Research study that was published early this year, the Dairy Alternatives Market is expected to exceed $34 billion in sales by 2024 due to “increasing consumer awareness for lactose-free food products.”
Gottlieb said the FDA will open a docket “very soon” and ask the public for help in developing a guidance document that would enforce the new standards.
Considering the challenges ahead, the commissioner estimates the process to take about a year.
“Invariably we’re gonna get sued probably as well because if you open our standard of identity, it talks about a lactating animal but if you open a dictionary, it talks about a milk coming from a lactating animal or a nut,” Gottlieb said.
It is not yet determined whether the new enforcement would really refuse these plant-based products from being called “milk.”
“We do have a standard of identity and I do intend to enforce that,” Gottlieb declared.
Source: ABC News