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FDA Cracks Down on Use of Word 'Milk'

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Milk has become a murky issue. Who knew a simple four letter word could be so misleading. Since the arrival of Soy Milk back in the 1980s, many different non-dairy milk products have come on the market, most notably rice and almond, and now hemp, and quinoa, and everything in between.

They prefer to call themselves "milk" in order to benefit from its halo affect, given the product's wholesome, nutritional public persona. But are these beverages really "milk"?

An Almond Doesn't Lactate

Dairy-dominant lawmakers say no, and have drafted the DAIRY PRIDE Act which "would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese." Thought the Act wasn't adopted, the FDA did respond by announcing that they will soon issue new guidelines on using the term "milk".

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that there are already guidelines in place, but that no one was abiding by them. "If you look at our standard of identity -- there is a reference somewhere in the standard of identity to a lactating animal," he said. "And, you know, an almond doesn't lactate, I will confess."

It Is What It ... Isn't?

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) wants to eliminate the dairy halo affect from these non-dairy products. After all, these non-dairy products are boot strapping off of the marketing dollars of the dairy industry. But the NMPF also believes consumers should be concerned because the FDA is allowing food products to claim to be whatever they want to be, rather than what they are, and the FDA should require more truth in labeling. Other products that might claim on their label they contain one thing, but actually contain another are:

  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Noodle products
  • Canned fruit

The FDA claims that it can't issue orders arbitrarily, and thus it may take some time before "dairy" and all other products are named and labeled accurately. We will keep you abreast of this situation as it moo-ves through the FDA process.

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