Comment Period for Milk Alternatives Labeling to Reopen

Brian GermanDairy & Livestock, Dairy and Livestock, Industry

The comment window for the draft guidance for milk alternatives is reopening after an announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Originally, the 60-day comment period ended on April 24. FDA is reopening the comment period after requests for extensions from a variety of different stakeholder groups. FDA notes that “the new deadline for comments will be determined when the reopening notice publishes.”

Milk Alternatives

The Labeling of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives and Voluntary Nutrient Statements: Guidance for Industry had originally been published in February. Nearly 1,000 comments were submitted within the initial comment period. Many agricultural organizations have expressed support for developing clearer guidelines for labeling but note that the draft guidance falls short. The National Milk Producers Federation criticized the FDA’s inaction to enforce existing standards of identity when it comes to dairy. Several lawmakers have also expressed concern regarding plant-based beverages being allowed to use dairy terminology.

Much of the criticism of the draft guidance is its focus on nutritional information and not the generalized use of dairy terms. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has weighed in on the issue, suggesting FDA require milk alternatives to be labeled accurately. AFBF cites existing examples of standards of identity being enforced on products labeled “jam”, and differentiations between “cheese” and “cheese substitute.” In written comments, AFBF also highlights how other developed economies such as Canada, European Union, and the United Kingdom enforce bans on dairy labeling on imitation products.

“We ask that FDA amend their draft guidance to prohibit the use of “milk” or other dairy terms on non-dairy substitutes unless products follow proper use of imitation terminology, as defined by existing law,” wrote AFBF Vice President of Public Policy Sam Kieffer. “Allowing such changes runs the risk of undercutting the entire current FDA labelling framework for imitation products, to the detriment of farmers, honest processors, and all consumers.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West