Soy, Oat and Almond Drinks Can Be Called Milk, FDA Says
Plant-based beverage makers hailed the agency’s decision but objected to the recommendation for labels to specify the nutritional differences with cow’s milk.
Oat, soy and almond drinks can keep the word milk in their names, the Food and Drug Administration proposed this week, in an effort to end a long-running battle between the powerful dairy industry and the plant-based upstarts that have been changing the way Americans consume cereal and flavor their coffee.
Most consumers, the agency noted in its draft proposal, are aware that liquid extracts from plants have no relationship to the udder of a cow.
But in a concession to the nation’s traditional milk producers, the F.D.A. also recommended that the packaging for plant-based drinks make clear the key nutritional differences between their products and cow’s milk. If a carton of rice milk contains less vitamin D or calcium than dairy milk does, for example, the label should provide that information to consumers, the agency said.
Although the new labeling recommendations are described as voluntary, industry experts predicted that most companies would comply. The agency plans to issue a final decision after another period of public comment.
“Today’s draft guidance was developed to help address the significant increase in plant-based milk alternative products that we have seen become available in the marketplace over the past decade,” Dr. Robert M. Califf, the F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement. “The draft recommendations issued today should lead to providing consumers with clear labeling to give them the information they need to make informed nutrition and purchasing decisions on the products they buy for themselves and their families.”
But she expressed disappointment with the new labeling recommendations, saying they were unnecessary and potentially confusing, especially given that some nutritional components in milk, such as protein and magnesium, are not lacking in the typical adult’s diet. “If anything, some groups of Americans are consuming too much protein,” she said, adding that people who care about the nutritional content of a plant-based drink can read the product’s existing back-of-the-carton label.
“The fact that the F.D.A. is finally doing something after 40 years is positive for us,” he said.
Source: NYTimes Science