Almond and soy drinks that call themselves milk might be required to consider different language after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested it might begin cracking down on the use of that term.
The FDA signaled its plans to begin enforcing federal standards defining milk as coming for milking one or more healthy cows. This would be a big change from the federal regulator, which has not gone after the myriad of drinks that are plant-based and labeled milk.
Scott Gottlieb the Commissioner of the FDA noted this week that hundreds of different federal standards for identity exist, that spell out the way foods with different names must by manufactured.
Gottlieb added that the question has become if we have been enforcing the standard for identity, and the answer is likely not.
Standards of identity have created industry spats as diets in America evolve, including fights over what can be called yogurt and mayonnaise. More recently, disagreements have surfaced over what to call meat that is grown throw culturing cells, which is a science still in its infancy.
The FDA cannot just decide to change how it enforces a standard without giving any warning, added Gottlieb. Since it is planning to take a new approach to this enforcement, the commissioner said the FDA would have to develop guidance first, through notifying companies that there would be changes made as well as ask for comments from the public. That guidance would is likely to be issued within a year.
The agency expects it will be sued said Gottlieb, since the dictionary definitions are much broader and say that milks comes from a nut or lactating animal.
The National Milk Producers Federation announced that it welcomes the recognition by Gottlieb that labeling practices of several dairy imitators violated existing federal standards.
The industry group just recently renewed a push for a crackdown by the FDA on drinks that are non-dairy labeling themselves as milk.
Plant-based alternative advocates the Good Food Institute, says milk should be permitted to be used for nondairy drinks that have modifiers.
The group said that soy milk and almond milk were the best terms and the clearest for describing these types of products.
The FDA did not comment on if it would enforce other standards, like those for yogurt.