Draft federal US rules would allow soya, oat, almond and other plant-based “milks” to keep using the name, ABC News reported.
Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance on 22 February saying that plant-based beverages do not claim to be from dairy animals – and that US consumers are not confused by the difference, according to the report on the same date.
Dairy producers had been calling for the FDA to crack down on plant-based drinks and other products for years, claiming that they say masquerade as animal-based foods and confuse the real meaning of “milk”, ABC News wrote.
Under the draft rules, the agency recommended that beverage makers label their products clearly by the plant source of the food, such as “soya milk” or “cashew milk”, the report said.
The rules also call for voluntary extra nutrition labels that indicate when the drinks have lower levels of nutrients than dairy milk, such as calcium, magnesium or vitamin D, according to the report, while labels showing when plant-based drinks have higher levels would continue to be allowed.
Fortified soya milk was the only plant-based food included in the dairy category of US dietary guidelines due to its nutrient levels, the report said.
The new guidelines were aimed at providing consumers with clear nutrition information, FDA Commissioner Dr Robert Califf was quoted as saying in a statement. The draft rules do not apply to non-dairy products other than beverages, such as yogurt.
While welcoming the need for extra nutritional information on drink labels, industry trade group the National Milk Producers Federation said it rejected the FDA’s conclusion that plant-based drinks could be called milk because it’s a “common and usual name”.
The Good Food Institute, a group that advocates for plant-based products, objected to the extra labelling, saying “the guidance misguidedly admonishes companies to make a direct comparison" with cow’s milk, even though key nutrients were already required to be listed.
The number of plant-based drinks had increased in recent years to include dozens of varieties, including cashew, coconut, hemp and quinoa-based beverages, the report said, and although the drinks were made from the liquid extracts of plant materials, they were frequently labelled – and described – as “milks”.
Lawmakers in dairy states had tried to get bills passed that would require the FDA to enforce a federal standard that defines “milk” as the product of “milking one or more healthy cows”, ABC News wrote.
The FDA would be accepting comments on the draft guidelines until 23 April, the report said.