The FDA has issued a Request for Information, asking for consumers to comment on their understanding of terms like “milk” or “cheese,” specifically when used to describe plant-based milk and dairy alternatives.
Responses will be used to help the Agency “modernize” standards of identity for certain foods, according to a press release. The deadline for submitting comments is set for late November.
“The FDA supports choice and innovation in the marketplace, and we recognize that some consumers may prefer to use plant-based products instead of dairy products for a variety of reasons, including an allergy or lifestyle choice," reads the press release. "However, we must also ensure that the labeling of such products does not mislead consumers, especially if this could compromise their health and well-being.”
This announcement was made following months of debate surrounding the DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced into the Senate in 2016. The Act would regulate the use of terms traditionally associated with dairy from animals, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, forcing plant-based dairy companies to use other terms to describe their products.
At this summer's Politico Pro Summit, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that “an almond doesn’t lactate,” revealing his bias on the issue.
Research from the Plant-Based Foods Association shows that 78 percent of cow’s milk drinkers believe that “milk” is the most appropriate term for plant-based dairy alternatives.
“We urge the FDA to adopt policies that encourage this innovation, not stifle it,” Michele Simon, executive director at the Plant-Based Foods Association, tells FoodNavigator-USA.
“Plant-based food producers offer options that consumers want and recognize," she continues. "If those foods are forced to be identified by obscure, contrived names that consumers are unfamiliar with, innovation will be stifled, and consumers will be deprived of the choices they deserve.”
American plant-based milk sales currently amount to about $1.6 billion and make up around 13 percent of total milk sales in the United States, according to data released this summer from Nielsen.
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