Politics & Law

ProVeg Urges FDA to Protect Consumer Choice as Agency Considers Plant-Based “Milk” Ban

Food awareness organization ProVeg International is urging the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to refrain from issuing new guidance that could discriminate against America’s rapidly growing plant-based milk sector.

“The FDA should not be using its labeling authority to harm a growing industry”

The FDA has sent an unpublished guidance document, entitled “Labeling of Plant-based Milk Alternatives and Voluntary Nutrient Statements”, to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). ProVeg has learned this document may include a ban on the use of “milk” terms for plant-based products out of fear that it misleads consumers. 

The organization is now calling on the FDA to protect dairy-free milk products from such labeling restrictions, which it says would discourage and impede food innovation. 

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Congressional letter

Four US Senators, including Cory Booker, Mike Lee and Julia Brownley, already issued a letter to the OMB this year expressing their concern about the FDA guidance. 

In the letter, the senators note the FDA has long declined to clarify standards for plant-based milk, even when groups petitioned for “soymilk” to receive formal recognition in 1997. Furthermore, its own Standards of Identity do not specify the nutritional differences between cow’s milk and other animal-based milks, such as those from goats or buffaloes.

Congress Alternative Protein Research
US Congress/ Photo by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

Asking plant-based milk producers to identify nutritional differences in their products, even if voluntary, amounts to discrimination, the senators wrote.“[The] FDA should not be using its labeling authority to harm a growing industry and the millions of American consumers for whom plant-based foods are an important part of their diet,” the letter reads.

Climate and health

According to ProVeg, plant-based milks also have a much smaller environmental impact than dairy and produce half the amount of greenhouse gases. “Plant-based milks are an important contribution in the fight against climate change – a challenge that we need to urgently respond to,” said Lana Weidgenant, policy and campaigns manager at ProVeg.

Since plant-based milks also offer nutritious, dairy-free options for the 68% of consumers with lactose intolerance, such products should be encouraged rather than restricted, ProVeg argues.

Supermarket shelves with alt milk courtesy ProVeg
Image courtesy ProVeg

The FDA’s guidance on plant-based labeling is expected to be published in the next few weeks. 

As Weidgenant states, “If the FDA guidance restricts plant-based companies from using the term “milk”, it will serve to perpetuate the myth that consumers are being misled, and sabotage innovation across the US, negatively affecting growers and manufacturers alike at a time when the market is rapidly growing.”

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