Why the Issue of Standards of Identity Goes Beyond Just ‘Milk’
It appears that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally going to enforce the federal standard of identity for “milk” and disallow soy and nut beverages from using the term on their labels.
But the issue goes even further than “milk,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. In his monthly “CEO’s Corner” column posted today, Mulhern points out that the standard of identity for “butter” is also at risk with lax FDA enforcement.
“If you thought butter was off limits because there is a clear standard of identity for butter (one actually codified in federal law, not just regulation) and another standard of identity for plant-based substitutes – known as margarine – think again,” he writes.
“With sales of real butter increasing and margarine sales tanking, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out where this is headed. Yep, butter substitutes that meet the existing standard of identity of margarine (or even the lesser standard of a product called “vegetable oil spread”) are starting to be re-branded as ‘vegan butter.’
“This development alone demonstrates the crass commercialism at play here by the fake food marketers. Their fight to keep stealing dairy’s good name is about nothing more than building market share, in any way possible,” he says.
FDA will hold hearings on the issue, and likely solicit comments to legally support enforcement of existing standards. “It’s sad that regulators need additional data to support an action that seems obvious and necessary, but that is the reality of the process,” he says.
There will also likely be legal challenges if FDA enforces current standards, says Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner. That, too, is the reality of the current food fight as marketers desperately paw and claw for market share.