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FDA extends comment period on ‘milk’ definitionFDA extends comment period on ‘milk’ definition

Original comment period was scheduled to end on Nov. 27 and now is scheduled to run until Jan. 25.

Jacqui Fatka

November 16, 2018

2 Min Read
FDA extends comment period on ‘milk’ definition
Soyfoods Association of North America - SANA

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has extended the comment period by 60 days on the request for information on labeling plant-based products with names that include the names of dairy foods such as “milk,” “yogurt” and “cheese.” The original comment period was scheduled to end on Nov. 27 and now is scheduled to run until Jan. 25.

The agency intends to take this action in response to requests for additional time to submit comments. “FDA believes that the extension would allow adequate time for interested persons to provide input without significantly delaying any potential further action on these important issues,” the agency said in a release.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) thanked FDA for the extension.

“It is crucial that all interested parties have adequate time to more fully address FDA’s extensive list of questions about the labeling issue and why it matters from a nutrition and public health standpoint,” said Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of NMPF, which has long urged FDA to enforce existing rules on what should and shouldn’t properly be called “milk.”

NMPF added, “This extension will allow the dairy community, as well as health professionals, to fully explain why consumers deserve accurate and honest information about their food options.”

Related:FDA chief to enforce what constitutes milk

A survey conducted by the research firm IPSOS, commissioned by Dairy Management Inc., found that misperceptions were common regarding the nutritional value of true milk versus imitators that are industrially produced by mixing water with small amounts of a plant-based product, along with various whiteners, stabilizers, emulsifiers and other chemical ingredients.

For example:

  • 73% of consumers believed that almond-based drinks had as much or more protein per serving than milk, even though milk has eight times as much protein.

  • 53% said they believed that plant-based food manufacturers labeled their products “milk” because their nutritional value is similar, which is incorrect.

Even research funded by plant-drink processors shows confusion. According to a study from the International Food Information Council Foundation, one-quarter of consumers of coconut, soy and almond beverages either thought that those drinks contained milk or weren’t sure whether they did.

Some organizations have already started filing comments with FDA regarding the definition of milk.

In comments submitted Nov. 1, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed out that since FDA defines "milk" as something produced by "healthy cows," the dairy industry itself isn't producing it, as up to 50% of cows used for milk suffer from mastitis.

Related:Consumers not confused by milk alternatives

"The bovine udder secretions on the market today are contaminated with pus, antibiotics and hormones," PETA president Ingrid Newkirk claimed. "PETA is calling on the FDA to stop fretting about what to call nutritious vegan milks and start coming clean about a fluid that doesn't meet its own definition."

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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