Plant-based milk alternatives can keep calling themselves "milk," the US Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
The agency commissioned and conducted focus groups and found that the term "milk" is "strongly rooted in consumers' vocabulary when describing and talking about plant-based alternatives," the FDA said in draft guidance.
Consumers are aware that plant-based milks are different from dairy milks, research found. They also use the plant-based alternatives in the same way people use dairy milks: in cereals, coffee and more.
"Although many plant-based milk alternatives are labeled with names that bear the term 'milk' (e.g., 'soy milk'), they do not purport to be nor are they represented as milk," the FDA said.
Some in the dairy industry have argued that it's misleading to label plant-based milk alternatives as "milk." There have also been several lawsuits during the past decade over how to accurately label almond, soy and other dairy milk alternatives.
The FDA advised producers of plant-based milk to label their products with "voluntary nutrient statements" on how the alternative differs from dairy milk.
"Consumer studies indicate that, in general, while consumers do not understand the nutritional differences between plant-based milk alternatives and milk, they believe plant-based milk alternatives are healthier than milk and expect that products labeled with the term 'milk' in the name are comparable in nutrition to milk," the FDA said.
Though the additional nutrient information is voluntary, it's meant to inform consumers on how the products differ even as plant-based milk is labeled as a dairy substitute.
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