Plant Based Foods Association to FDA: Plant-based 'milks' are properly labeled

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: istockphoto-HandmadePictures
Picture: istockphoto-HandmadePictures

Related tags Milk

It is both lawful and pragmatic to describe plant-based beverages as ‘milks,’ and the courts agree, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) has told the FDA, in the wake of pressure from lawmakers to crack down on the use of dairy-related terms for products made from nuts, seeds and legumes.

In a letter​ ​to Dr Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the association told the agency: “We respectfully maintain that such products are properly labeled with their ‘common or usual name’ or ’appropriately descriptive term,’ per 21 C.F.R. 101.3(b)(2) and (3),​ and we note that courts have agreed with this position​.” 

The letter was sent following the introduction of The Dairy Pride Act​– a bill urging the FDA to prohibit terms such as ‘almond milk,’ and ‘vegan cheese’ – and a letter from lawmakers sent to the FDA before Christmas urging it to enforce standards of identity for ‘milk,’ which restrict it to the ‘lacteal secretions’ of cows.

Our members seek consistency in their labeling

The PBFA's letter added: “Our members seek consistency in their labeling, especially for emerging food varieties. To help address this, we have begun to:

1. Create a formal standards committee in our association to address labeling and related issues

2. Engage experts with experience in these matters to guide our process

3. Invite all relevant companies in the plant-based foods industry to participate.

“Out of this process we hope to gain important information from industry members, along with other experts, on how to best standardize labeling terminology for many plant-based foods.”


We reject these attacks by the dairy industry and look forward to a more constructive conversation that ensures consumers are able to access the delicious plant-based options they desire”.

Michele Simon, executive director, Plant Based Foods Association

Consumers choose plant-based foods for multiple reasons

In separate letters to Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Peter Welch, who introduced the Dairy Pride Act to the Senate and the House respectively, the PBFA said its members were “eager to achieve consistency in how they label their products​,” and that its mission “is simply to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace, a concept we hope you support.”

It added: “Millions of US consumers have already made plant-based foods the functional equivalent of dairy-based products (including milks, cheeses, and yogurts) in their diet, and are actively seeking them out for a variety of reasons including taste, health, allergies, lactose intolerance, environment, and animal welfare.

“We welcome a conversation with you to get your input on how we might be able to reach a solution that works for all food industry sectors.”

IDFA: Milk should be milk

The National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association, however, argue that they simply want the FDA to enforce standards of identity already enshrined in law that limit the use of dairy terms (milk, cheese, yogurt) to dairy products.

 “These plant-based products are imitations, but they are not substitutes for the comprehensive nutrient package offered by real milk​,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA. 

The reason we have food standards is to preserve the integrity and consistency of what’s inside the packages. Milk should be milk​.”

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