The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new draft rules stating that plant-based milk products should not be labelled as "milk." The FDA's guidance states that products made from the liquid extracts of plants do not pretend to be from cows, and American consumers are not confused by the term "milk" when used for non-dairy products.
However, producers of these products will be required to clearly label them with their plant source, such as "soy milk," to avoid any confusion among consumers. The agency is accepting public comments on the draft guidance until April 23, after which it will finalize the rules.
In addition to requesting clear labelling of plant-based milk products, the FDA has also asked producers to include extra nutritional information on their products if they contain lower levels of nutrients than dairy milk, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
The National Milk Producers Federation approved of the request for extra nutrition information, but rejected the FDA's conclusion that the term "milk" is a "common and usual name" for non-dairy products. The Good Food Institute, an advocate for plant-based products, criticised the guidance for encouraging companies to make direct comparisons to cow's milk, which it believes is misguided.
Key Point: Cow's milk continues to outperform plant-based milks, with sales of refrigerated cow's milk reaching $12.3 billion in the year ended Jan. 28, compared to $2.5 billion for non-dairy milk, according to NielsenIQ. Among the plant-based milks, almond milk remains the most popular, with oat milk showing the fastest growth. However, fortified soy milk is the only plant-based option that meets US dietary guidelines for dairy.
The FDA's new draft rules reflect the agency's efforts to clarify the labelling of plant-based milk products and ensure that consumers are not misled. The dairy industry has long argued that the use of the term "milk" for non-dairy products is misleading and harms their business.
However, the plant-based milk industry argues that consumers are aware of the differences between dairy and non-dairy products and that there is no confusion over the use of the term "milk." The FDA's guidance appears to strike a balance between these competing interests by requiring clear labelling of plant-based milk products while also acknowledging that consumers are not confused by the use of the term "milk" for these products.
The plant-based milk industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, driven by concerns over the health and environmental impacts of dairy production, as well as ethical concerns about the treatment of dairy cows. While plant-based milks still account for a small share of the overall milk market, their rapid growth has prompted the dairy industry to push for tighter labelling rules.
New Draft Rule: The FDA's new draft rules are likely to be welcomed by the plant-based milk industry, which has long argued that clear labelling is essential to ensure that consumers can make informed choices. However, the dairy industry may continue to push for stricter rules in the future.