As more dairy alternatives gain popularity, more brands are labeling their products with names like ‘almond milk’ or ‘vegan cheese,’ using dairy terms even if the item does not contain any dairy.
The dairy industry wants the non-dairy market to use words like ‘alternatives’ or ‘substitutes’ in its labeling as it says consumers are getting confused.
After committing to cracking down on labeling by reviewing and modernizing the standards of identity for dairy and non-dairy products, the FDA opened up a request for information period at the end of September.
It was originally supposed to close November 27 for the public to submit either electronic or written comments on the ‘Use of the Names of Dairy Foods in the Labeling of Plant-Based Products’ document.
But after people requested more time to provide their feedback, the FDA decided to extend the comment period by 60 days.
“FDA believes that the extension would allow adequate time for interested persons to provide input without significantly delaying any potential further action on these important issues,” the administration said.
Setting the standards
In the document the FDA details its reasoning for engaging with the public and outlines what it’s looking for in the responses.
“We are interested in learning how consumers use these plant-based products and how they understand terms such as, for example, ‘milk’ or ‘yogurt’ when included in the names of plant-based products,” it said.
“We also are interested in learning whether consumers are aware of and understand differences between the basic nature, characteristics, ingredients, and nutritional content of plant-based products and their dairy counterparts. We are taking this action to inform our development of an approach to the labeling of plant-based products that consumers may substitute for dairy foods.”
The FDA provided a list of five categories with corresponding questions to guide responses and gather as much information about the dairy and non-dairy industries as possible.
“We invite comment, particularly data and other evidence, about:
(A) The current market conditions and labeling costs of plant-based products
(B) consumer understanding, perception, purchase, and consumption of plant-based products, particularly those manufactured to resemble dairy foods such as, for example, milk, cultured milk, yogurt, and cheese
(C) consumer understanding regarding the basic nature, characteristics, and properties of these plant-based products
(D) consumer understanding of the nutritional content of plant-based products and dairy foods and the effect, if any, on consumer purchases and use
(E) the role of plant-based products and dairy foods in meeting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines (Ref. 1).”