Those practicing veganism or just trying to live a healthier lifestyle have often turned to alternative types of milk. Rather than drinking milk from a cow, people have been drinking non-dairy brands such as almond and soy milk. Despite these drinks being used as dairy milk replacements, the Food and Drug Administration recently cracked down on how we refer to almond and soy alternatives — recommending we don’t actually call them “milk” at all.
At the POLITICO Pro Summit, the FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that almond and soy alternatives to dairy milk will no longer be classified as their own kinds of milk. “If you look at our standard of identity, there is a reference somewhere in the standard of identity to a lactating animal,” Gottlieb said. “And, you know, an almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”
The decision to apply more accurate terminology to non-dairy alternatives was readily welcomed by The National Milk Producers Federation. In a document penned by Robert D. Byrne, the vice president of regulatory affairs for the NMPF, he asked the FDA to crack down on the misuse of the term “milk.” Regarding almond and soy alternatives, Byrne wrote, “Milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.”
He added that certain products such as coconut milk have used the term “milk” in their name, but is exempt from their complaints due to the fact that coconut milk hasn’t been directly competing with dairy milk. “Soy-based beverages, on the other hand, are attempting to directly compete with dairy products and are inappropriately taking advantage of the familiarity (and positive image) of dairy terminology in their labeling,” he continued. Byrne then said that any beverage claiming to be milk should fulfill the regulations laid out by the FDA that specify milk comes from lactating animals.
“This is going to take time,” Gottlieb said of the rules for milk labeling. “It’s not going to take two years, but it probably takes something close to a year to get to go through that process.” He added that the FDA will also be reaching out to the public regarding proper terminology.