“At a time when consumers want real food, this ‘fake food’ movement has gone in the opposite direction, flaunting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards that define milk as the product of cows, not heavily processed and unrecognizable plant sources,” Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, said.
“These companies are also aware that playing fast and loose with labeling regulations is a potential legal liability and a source of confusion in the marketplace.”
According to Mulhern, the Dairy Pride Act introduced earlier this year continues to attract support with three US senators and 14 members from the House of Representatives.
“FDA’s failure to do its job on food standards means it’s time for Congress to intervene,” he said.
The US has been ‘lax’
Other nations such as Canada and European countries have food labeling standards similar to those in the US, but their governments “actually enforce those regulations, unlike FDA,” Mulhern said.
“The United States has been lax, but that doesn’t mean such violations will go unnoticed indefinitely, either by regulators or those misappropriating dairy terms.”
Members of the Plant Based Foods Association are meeting this week in San Francisco to review the potential compliance challenges their products may have with FDA’s existing standards of identity.
Plant-based manufacturers chime in
Califia Farms, which manufacturers dairy alternative beverage and creamer products for both the US and Canadian markets, said that even though its packaging differs in both markets (Canadian packaging is labeled as “almond beverage” vs. “almond milk” in the US), the company still highlights its 100% dairy-free credentials plainly and clearly for consumers American and Canadian consumers.
"We have full faith in the ultimate wisdom of our customers,” CEO of Califia Farms, Greg Steltenpohl, told DairyReporter.
“In the US market, the judgment of the FDA has so far supported the common-sense notion that within current guidelines consumers already understand the origin of the milk types that they buy.”
According to Mintel, non-dairy penetration is exploding, with household penetration growing from 27.3% in 2013, to 55% in 2016, and the almondmilk category projected to grow 36% by 2020, while dairy milk sales are projected to decline 8% by 2020.
“The reality is that the growth of plant-based milk is currently on a different trajectory than dairy milk,” Steltenpohl added.
“We can understand the lobby efforts of the dairy industry, but we believe today’s consumers are making (and will continue to make) conscious and informed decisions at the refrigerator case."