On February 22, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a much-anticipated draft guidance regarding the naming and labeling of plant-based milk alternatives. Significantly, under the draft guidance, FDA will not prohibit the use of the identifier “milk” in plant-based milk alternatives but does recommend the product be labeled with “voluntary nutrient statements” to help consumers understand the nutritional differences in the products.
Over the past decade, plant-based milk alternatives have dramatically increased in both availability and consumption. During this time, industry stakeholders have disagreed over the use of the term “milk” for plant-based alternatives that do not contain milk from cows. The dairy industry has lobbied both federal and state governments to restrict the use of “milk” to only fluid “obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” To address this debate and to acknowledge the exponential increase in the sale of plant-based milk products, FDA issued a notice for public comment in September 2018 on the “Use of Name of Dairy Foods in the Labeling of Plant-Based Products” that amassed over 13,000 comments. The recently issued draft guidance indicates that the agency did in fact rely on the findings from this notice in developing its recommendations.