Dairy farmers who want the terms “soy milk” and “almond milk” banished from our lexicon are pressing their case to federal regulators.
This week, the American Dairy Coalition launched an effort aimed at persuading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to not expand the definition of “milk” to include plant-based beverages.
The FDA has scheduled a July 26 public hearing on that, and other matters, in Washington, D.C.
“It is crucial the dairy industry speaks up” on the issue, the American Dairy Coalition, based in Green Bay, said in a statement.
“We can no longer stand by” and allow plant-based beverages to be labeled as milk, the statement said.
Under FDA definition, milk is supposed to come from a lactating animal, not a plant. Yet critics say the agency hasn’t enforced its definition, resulting in a cascade of products such as soy, almond, rice, coconut and oat beverages to flow into the dairy aisle under the guise of milk.
It’s confusing for consumers, said Laurie Fischer, executive director of the American Dairy Coalition, whose membership includes large dairy farms and milk processors.
“The dairy industry is taking a stand and saying ‘milk is milk.’ And we want to make sure that consumers understand what it is,” Fischer said.
The FDA did not immediately return a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel call seeking answers to questions and the agency’s view on the issue.
Critics of the coalition’s effort say it’s more about propping up the dairy industry than clearing up any confusion for consumers.
“No one is buying almond milk, or soy milk, thinking that it came from a cow,” said Matthew Ball, spokesman for the Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C. group that advocates for plant-based foods.
Good Food says it’s gathered thousands of petition signatures that make it clear people know the difference between soy and regular milk.
Plant-based beverage makers use the word “milk” on their labels because the products are used in a way similar to cow’s milk, according to Ball.
People put soy milk on their cereal, for example, just like they would regular milk.
“This is a free speech issue. There’s no way it can be painted as misleading consumers,” Ball said.
By: Rick Barrett
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel