NMPF calls for FDA labeling crackdown of 'dairy imitators,' while Califia Farms trusts 'common-sense wisdom' of consumers

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

According to NMPF, the FDA has been lax on enforcing labeling regulations of dairy products. ©iStock/AlexPro9500
According to NMPF, the FDA has been lax on enforcing labeling regulations of dairy products. ©iStock/AlexPro9500

Related tags Dairy pride act Milk

America’s dairy organizations are demanding that “dairy imitators” must start complying with federal regulations that require dairy products labeled as 'milk' to contain dairy milk.

“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." 

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1 comment

Desperate, and ridiculous

Posted by Jennifer,

Well, then, by the reasoning of the Dairy Board, we must also re-label Milk of Magnesia, and the "milk of human kindness', lest consumers be confused about those items, also. Is this whole argument not stupid? Consumers (like me) are turning away from "real' milk precisely because the dairy industry has deliberately seen to it that cow's milk is no longer real food. Nothing that comes from an animal who is shot up with drugs and hormones, fed a dies to GMO-laced hay mixed with God knows what kind of industrial waste, mutilated, beaten, deprived of their young and crowded on stinky, dingy factory farms, is "real", except the cruelty, environmental destruction and threat to consumer health and sensibilities. I wonder what sort of far-fetched excuses the dairy industry will come up with to explain sales that will still sink even when the alternative products are re labeled? Maybe they'll start to complain that consumers can't spell?

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