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The plant-based food sector has reached a market value of $3.5 billion with an 8.7 percent growth rate in only the past two years. Consumer habits are shifting towards purchasing more plant-based foods and the meat and dairy industries are starting to show that they feel threatened. In a recent letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 32 members of the Congress argued that plant-based milk cannot be called “milk” due to the fact that labeling almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, etc… “is misleading to consumers, harmful to the dairy industry, and a violation of milk’s standard of identity.” In that same letter, they go on to define milk as “the lacteal secretion … obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” To us, it sounds like these concerned members of Congress are playing a game of semantics.

If this all seems familiar to you, it’s because we’ve been down this path before. When Unilever, the world’s largest producer of sandwich spreads and owner of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, heard talk of a new company named Hampton Creek was making deliciously creamy egg-free sandwich spread called Just Mayo (that looks like mayo and tastes like mayo without the eggs), they would not let it stand. They filed a lawsuit on the grounds that “real mayonnaise” must contain eggs. They later dropped the lawsuit and today, you can find Just Mayo and Hellmann’s Carefully Crafted Dressing and Sandwich Spread, A.K.A. vegan mayo, (the name just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?) on the shelves of most grocery stores. Plant-based foods are here to stay and if you can’t beat ’em, you join ’em.

It is clear that the representatives who signed off on the letter to the FDA are arguing their case for milk because they feel that the industry is threatened by the plant-based food sector, just like the story of Unilever and Hampton Creek. They stress that it is “misleading and illegal” for companies like So Delicious, Silk, and various other brands to market plant-based milk as “milk.” The plant-based milk market alone has grown by 250 percent and become a $894.6 million industry in the past five years, while – as the letter stresses – the dairy industry has fallen by seven percent.

This isn’t the first time that the dairy industry has voiced concerns to the FDA about the rapid growth of the plant-based milk industry. Judging by how Unilever’s lawsuit with Hampton Creek ended, perhaps it is time for the dairy industry to embrace change rather than trying to fight it, much like Ben & Jerry’s decision to sell almond milk-based ice cream or California dairy farmers who are switching over to almond groves.

Image source: YuliaKotina/Shutterstock

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3 comments on “Desperate Dairy Industry Gets Congress to Tell FDA That Plant-Based Milks Can’t Be Called ‘Milk’”

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Marc
7 Months Ago

According to these guidelines, that milk can only come from a cow, then goat\'s milk which is sold in stores also cannot be called "milk." If the producers renamed it "goat juice," then the `fruit juice producers would complain. I guess it would need to be called "goat secretions;" how appetizing would that sound to consumers?

The federal debt is $20 trillion, Medicare is facing a $38 trillion shortfall, Social Security is facing a $13 trillion shortfall, and the long term debt and unfunded liabilities of the federal government, according the the CBO\'s "Alternative Fiscal Scenario," is $222 trillion; but somehow the most pressing issue is......what can be called "milk?!"

This is "Big Government" at its worst; it is not the role of the federal government to be deciding what is and what is not called "milk." Consumers have brains; we can understand the difference between animal and plant based "milks." If dairy farmers stopped loading their dairy cows with antibiotics and hormones, then more people would buy their product.


Reply
Amanda
9 Months Ago

Does anyone know where we can find the full list of legislators who signed this letter?


Reply
Amanda
31 Dec 2016

Thanks to the "National Milk Producers Federation" who put it on their website, I found the whole list of legislators who signed this ridiculous letter. Here is it in case anyone wants to contact their reps about it:
Peter Welch
Mike Simpson
Collin C Peterson
David G Daladao
Tom Reed
Joe Courtney
Suzan Delbene
Sean Duffy
Dan Newhouse
Ann McLane Kuster
James Comer
Paul Tonko
Glenn Grothman
Steve Pearce
Kurt Schrader
Rick Larsen
Ron Kind
Mark Pocan
Jim Renacci
Thomas J Rooney
Glenn GT Thompson
John Katko
Tom Emmer
Tom Marino
Elizabeth H Esty
Richard Hanna
Reid Ribble
Devin Nunes
John Moolenaar
Elise M Stefanik
Bob Gibbs
F James Sensenbrenner Jr

Paul Michael
9 Months Ago

To milk is a process as well, is it not? Smh, when and why did we become so petty as a society? Lol


Reply
Pea Gil
9 Months Ago

No matter. It is not the concept of milk we are advocating or "selling," it is the concept of healthy, non violence through iur food intake. They will not drown the cause with their silliness.


Reply
Lynn Hargreaves
9 Months Ago

Oh, good grief.


Reply
Tom J Wright
9 Months Ago

Heaven forfend! Harmful to the dairy industry! Didn't realize that was a crime


Reply
Andrea Gardiner
9 Months Ago

Lol...that's ok...still won't get me to drink their dairy milk.


Reply
Isaac Collison
9 Months Ago

Plant based milk is to good to be called milk !!


Reply
Barbara Luna Kwietniowska
9 Months Ago

Because this is not milk..... Where is the problem?! What is sad?! This is plant spread or nuts spread but this is not milk !!!!! Milk is from breasts AMEN


Reply
Kate
9 Months Ago

In my mind it is milk and I would not choose dairy over plant based milk no matter what it is called. I will not support a busies that tears mothers and calves apart and causes suffering and death to cows,


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