Girl pouring milk into glass
July 26, 2017

NMPF Meets with FDA on Dairy Food Labeling

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Food policy staff from the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) met with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials yesterday, emphasizing one key message: Enforce U.S. food labeling standards.

At issue: The allowance of plant-based beverages to use terms such as “milk,” “cheese,” “yogurt” and “ice cream” even though Federal standards of food identity clearly prohibit such labeling. The battle to eliminate the misbranding has been going on for years, but it has taken on new urgency as plant-based dairy imitators continue to eat up market share in the dairy case.

“[Yesterday’s] meeting with FDA allowed us to convey our concern that in the absence of enforcement of existing clear and consistent regulations, well-defined product labels lose their meaning,” says Jim Mulhern, NMPF President and CEO. “In the case of imitation milks, these beverages are nothing but a factory-made slurry of ground-up nuts or seeds combined with water, sugar, emulsifiers and thickeners.

“By comparison, cow’s milk has attracted and nourished generations, and built a reputation as a natural food with a consistent package of nine essential nutrients. It is misleading and deceptive to allow these nutritionally inferior imitators to use our hard-won reputation to their advantage,” he says.

NMPF notes that almond-based beverages contain just 1 gram of protein per serving compared to 8 grams in real milk. And about two thirds of plant based beverages contain more added sodium, some close to 2 times, that of milk where it is naturally occurring.

“Beyond the wide variation in the presence of many nutrients, not one of these imitators had the same amount of nine essential nutrients in real milk,” says Beth Briczinski, NMPF’s vice president for dairy food and nutrition. “Some may add food-grade calcium salts or a few vitamins, but none matches milk’s complete nutritional profile.

“This discrepancy is about more than words; it’s a matter of the public being served nutritionally inconsistent, inferior products that desperately want to ride the coattails of and associate themselves with a superior food,” she says.

Mulhern adds that NMPF is not trying to eliminate plant-based beverages and foods. “We want to end the consumer deception associated with these products and for FDA to enforce its regulations on product integrity,” he says. “We will continue to push on this issue until FDA acts to ensure dairy standards are enforced.”