FDA Wants to Keep Almond, Soy Drinks Called 'Milk'

Dairy producers have pushed for labeling changes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2023 4:15 PM CST
FDA Wants to Stick With 'Milk' Not Needing an Animal
The ingredients label for soy milk is seen in a grocery store in New York in 2017.   (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Soy, oat, almond, and other drinks that bill themselves as milk can keep using the name, according to draft federal rules released Wednesday. Food and Drug Administration officials issued guidance that says plant-based beverages don't pretend to be from dairy animals – and that US consumers aren't confused by the difference, the AP reports. Dairy producers for years have called for the FDA to crack down on plant-based drinks and other products that they say masquerade as animal-based foods and cloud the real meaning of "milk." Under the draft rules, the agency recommends that beverage makers label their products clearly by the plant source of the food, such as "soy milk" or "cashew milk."

The rules also call for voluntary extra nutrition labels that note when the drinks have lower levels of nutrients than dairy milk, such as calcium, magnesium, or vitamin D. They would continue to allow labels that note when plant-based drinks have higher levels. Fortified soy milk is the only plant-based food included in the dairy category of US dietary guidelines because of its nutrient levels. The new guidelines are aimed at providing consumers clear nutrition information, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement. The draft rules do not apply to nondairy products other than beverages, such as yogurt.

The National Milk Producers Federation, an industry trade group, applauded the call for extra nutrition information on drink labels but rejected the FDA's conclusion that plant-based drinks can be called milk because it's a "common and usual name." The Good Food Institute, a group that advocates for plant-based products, objected to the extra labeling in a statement, saying "the guidance misguidedly admonishes companies to make a direct comparison" with cow's milk, even though key nutrients are already required to be listed. In recent years, the number of plant-based drinks has exploded to include dozens of varieties, including cashew, coconut, hemp, and quinoa-based beverages. Although the drinks are made from the liquid extracts of plant materials, they are frequently labeled–and described—as "milks."

(Read more Food and Drug Administration stories.)

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