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CEO DATELINE – Associations clash on whether ‘milk’ must come from cows

July 19, 2018
By Walt Williams

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The Food and Drug Administration may soon crack down on companies that market plant-based beverages as “milk,” handing a policy victory to groups representing dairy farmers.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday that his agency will soon begin enforcing an existing federal standard that allows companies to only market beverages as “milk” if the milk comes from cows, USA Today reported. The move would be a blow to food companies that currently produce plant-based beverages such as almond milk and soy milk, both of which have been growing in popularity among consumers.

Groups that represent dairy farmers, such as the National Milk Producers Federation, have long pressured federal authorities to enforce the standard. In a statement, NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern welcomed the announcement.

“After years of inaction in response to our complaints about these labeling violations, Dr. Gottlieb’s announcement that the agency is intending to act on this issue is very encouraging,” Mulhern said. “The marketing of non-dairy imitators must comply with federal standards of identity, and consumers should not be misled that these products have the same nutrition as real milk, yogurt, cheese and other actual dairy products.”

The Plant Based Foods Association didn’t see the announcement as a defeat for the industry it represents, with Executive Director Michele Simon telling Bloomberg News it was an “opportunity” to engage in an ongoing conversation about milk labeling.

“We’re looking forward to providing the agency with data that we have to make our case,” Simon said.