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
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.
Does anyone know where we can find the full list of legislators who signed this letter?
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:
Collin C Peterson
David G Daladao
Ann McLane Kuster
Thomas J Rooney
Glenn GT Thompson
Elizabeth H Esty
Elise M Stefanik
F James Sensenbrenner Jr