In a potential blow to almond and soy milk producers, the FDA plans to crack down on the usage of the term “milk” to refer to nondairy products. Current federal standards regarding the term’s usage were changed in April 2017 in an attempt to boost sales of dairy products, but the standards have not been strictly enforced. Now, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is saying that “plant-based dairy imitators” popular among vegetarians and health-conscious individuals violate the organization’s official definition of milk: “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” According to the Gottlieb, “an almond doesn’t lactate.”
The FDA has moved forward with the change despite the fact that several lawsuits are expected. Those protesting the distinction argue that various dictionary definitions cite milk as coming from both nuts and animals, with the earliest records that contain the name ‘almond milk’ dating back to the 16th century. The Food and Drug Administration has argued that it is protecting consumers who may be misled into buying the alternatives while in search of a dairy product.
Dairy manufacturers have been losing business to their counterparts in the nut industry, which might explain why they’re happy about the change. The worth of the dairy-alternative industry is projected to grow to over $34 billion in the next five years, while dairy producers have been facing falling prices and global oversupply. Chris Galen, a spokesperson for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), expressed the group’s support for the FDA’s tightening of the reins on “dairy imitators (who) violate long standing federal standards.” While the FDA will have to take public comment and develop guidelines before it enacts the change, it seems that big dairy may already have gotten what it wanted.
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