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FDA Draft Guidance for Labeling Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Submit Your Comments Now!

The FDA has released a draft guidance on labeling plant-based milk alternatives and voluntary nutrient statements, and is accepting comments from the public until April 23. The proposed guidelines recommend that plant-based milk alternatives which use the term “milk” in their name, such as “soy milk” or “almond milk,” have a voluntary nutrient statement to better inform consumers of the nutritional differences between the product and dairy milk.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf noted that the recommended clear labeling should “give them the information they need to make informed nutrition and purchasing decisions on the products they buy for themselves and their families.”[0] However, the proposal has not been welcomed by everyone, with Sens. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) expressing that it will hurt America’s dairy farmers and rural communities.[1] The two senators have announced their intention to reintroduce the DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled plant-based products.[1]

The FDA has conducted research and focus groups with consumers, discovering that many purchase plant-based milk to accommodate their allergies, intolerances to dairy milk, and vegan diets.[2] The agency also stated that consumers understand that such products do not contain milk, and that the name “milk” is “strongly rooted in consumers’ vocabulary.”[3]

Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA, recommends that consumers check the label for information about the product’s nutrient content.[4] “Has the product been fortified with nutrients such as calcium? How much added sugar is in the product? What is the protein content?” she said.[5] The Nutrition Facts label can help consumers compare the nutritional content of the various plant-based milk alternatives to milk.

The public can submit comments on the draft guidance online at regulations.gov or by mail to the FDA’s dockets management team.[6] The FDA is encouraging Americans to provide their thoughts on the naming and nutrition labeling of plant-based milk. As Chris Scimeca, CEO of the Plant Based Foods Association, said, “FDA must promulgate guidance that not only adheres to its own standards of truthful and not misleading but also advances the nutrition security of Americans.[7]

0. “New FDA draft guidance for plant-based milk alternatives” GMA, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/food/story/fda-proposes-new-labeling-marketing-guidance-plant-based-97392849

1. “How'd You Get that Milk? – AG INFORMATION NETWORK OF THE WEST” AGInfo Ag Information Network, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.aginfo.net/report/55608/Southeast-Regional-Ag-News/How-d-You-Get-that-Milk-

2. “Sour fight ends with FDA ruling soy and nut milks can still be called “milk”” Ars Technica, 23 Feb. 2023, https://arstechnica.com/science/2023/02/almond-milk-can-keep-its-name-despite-lack-of-lactation-fda-says/

3. “Sorry, Big Dairy. Oat and almond drinks can also be sold as milk, FDA says.” The Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2023/02/23/fda-almond-milk-soy-oat-plant-based/

4. “Milk and Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Know the Nutrient Difference” FDA.gov, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/milk-and-plant-based-milk-alternatives-know-nutrient-difference

5. “Milk, or a Plant-Based ‘Milk': What's the Nutritional Difference?” Bloomer Advance, 26 Feb. 2023, https://www.bloomeradvance.com/lifestyles/health/article_ba2b3dc4-04ce-5012-b843-8eda884ae642.html

6. “Letter From The Editor: Naming rights come with some responsibility” Food Safety News, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2023/02/letter-from-the-editor-naming-rights-come-with-some-responsibility

7. “Baldwin, Risch, dairy farmers criticize FDA plant-based beverage labeling plan” The Fence Post, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.thefencepost.com/news/baldwin-risch-dairy-farmers-criticize-fda-plant-based-beverage-labeling-plan/

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