Almonds Don’t Lactate: FDA to Enforce Standards for Milk Labeling

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency will renew efforts to enforce standards for milk labeling.  The dairy industry has been vocal in expressing the concern that non-dairy products such as almond milk, and soy milk are misleading to consumers.

Enforce StandardsIn a keynote address at Politico’s Pro Summit in Washington Gottlieb spoke on the agency’s Standards of Identity which regulate how food items can be manufactured in order to be classified as a certain product.  “There is a reference somewhere in the Standard of Identity to a lactating animal,” Gottlieb stated. “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”

Dairy groups have been making the charge to enforce standards for milk production for several years as alternative milk products continue to grow in number and presence in the market.  Various products made from almonds, soy, coconuts, and hemp have been labeled as milk, despite the fact they contain no dairy.  The dairy industry has lobbied as best as possible to combat the influx of non-dairy products calling themselves milk without much success.

Because the FDA has been operating with enforcement discretion in relation to milk for such a long period, simply enforcing the established Standards of Identity procedurally equates to forming a new policy.  “We’re going to open a docket very soon and solicit public comment with the hope of developing a guidance document that would enforce the Standard of Identity differently.  That’s going to take time,” Gottlieb said.

Acknowledging there will be pushback in the form of lawsuits, Gottlieb noted that the FDA will be moving forward in the process of addressing the enforcement of the agency’s own rules and regulations.  “There’s going to be people who make a counter-argument that almond milk should be able to call itself milk, but we do have a Standard of Identity and I do intend to enforce it,” said Gottlieb.


Listen to the Gottlieb audio provided by ZimmComm.


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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West