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FDA Guidance On Plant-Based Beverages’ Use of Dairy Terms is a First Step

ARLINGTON, VA | In response to FDA guidance on plant-based beverages, which guides manufacturers of plant-based beverages to disclose their nutrient inferiority and acknowledges the public health concern of nutritional confusion over such beverages, the National Milk Producers Federation, which has led the fight for labeling transparency, released the following statement: From Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation: “Today’s FDA announcement is a step toward labeling integrity for consumers of dairy products, even as it falls short of ending the decades-old problem of misleading plant-based labeling using dairy terminology. By acknowledging both the utter lack of nutritional standards prevalent in plant-based beverages and the confusion over nutritional value that’s prevailed in the marketplace because of the unlawful use of dairy terms, FDA’s proposed guidance today will provide greater transparency that’s sorely needed for consumers to make informed choices. “Still, the decision to permit such beverages to continue inappropriately using dairy terminology violates FDA’s own standards of identity, which clearly define dairy terms as animal-based products. We reject the agency’s circular logic that FDA’s past labeling enforcement inaction now justifies labeling such beverages as “milk” by designating a common and usual name. Past inaction is poor precedent to justify present and future inaction. “Because FDA’s proposed guidance is meaningless without action, enforcement will be necessary to ensure that this limited progress is reflected on grocery shelves. For these reasons, we will continue our work in Congress to pass the DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would direct FDA to enforce its own rules and clarify that dairy terms are for true dairy products, not plant-based imposters. “FDA’s last three Senate-confirmed commissioners — from both parties — have each acknowledged the problem of consumer confusion over nutritional content created by beverage labels that use dairy terms to imply qualities they simply don’t have. Medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, concur with this concern. Today’s proposed guidance at least recognizes this reality: That nutritionally inconsistent concoctions of water, factory-processed powders and other additives simply don’t contain the same nutrition that milk provides. “As the agency entrusted with protecting consumers from mislabeled products, FDA’s action here takes a step in that direction. And after more than four decades of efforts that have often fallen on deaf ears, we appreciate that today’s agency leadership is beginning to treat plant-based beverage labeling more like the critical issue of nutrition and agency integrity that it is. “We also would like to thank consumers, who sales data show drank fewer fake dairy beverages in 2022 than in 2021, part of a broader awakening to the bogus marketing of fake milk manufacturers that have been accepted uncritically for far too long. Despite the misinformation spun in advertisements and media, consumers are seeing through the marketing and recognizing these beverages for the fakes that they are. But consumers shouldn’t have to make choices in a marketplace that’s less than fully transparent, and until the federal government fully lives up to its mission, NMPF will continue to lead the battle for labeling transparency.”

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The National Milk Producers Federation, based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF’s member cooperatives produce more than two-thirds of U.S. milk, making NMPF dairy’s voice on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more, visit www.nmpf.org.

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