The International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) previously were in favor of the Food & Drug Administration more aggressively policing the improper use of dairy terms such as "milk" when used on the labels of many products that have no real dairy ingredients.
However, during a House Agriculture Committee hearing, IDFA president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes said IDFA is no longer asking for government intervention but, rather, that the issue be resolved in the marketplace.
FDA has found that these alternative drinks are labeled truthfully and are not misleading, and despite court challenges, it has not found it to be otherwise, Dykes said before the House Agriculture Committee.
He said it has been a difficult issue within the group's membership as many sell juice, alternative milk varieties and tea. This issue pits farmers such as almond and soybean growers against dairy producers.
“This is an issue that needs to be resolved in the marketplace,” Dykes said. “They’re trying to market to consumers what they want and what they drink.”
Some companies are adding milk proteins to water to increase protein content. Dykes said this is a competitive space in the beverage case; however, offering choice is the “bedrock of what we are,” he said.
“This is a very difficult issue, but we think it is best resolved in the marketplace,” Dykes added.
In a December statement thanking members of Congress for a letter asking FDA to investigate and take action against manufacturers, Dykes noted that, while “imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, dairy imitators do not naturally provide the same level of nutrition to the people buying them as milk does.” He added that non-dairy beverages “can mislead people into thinking these products are comparable replacements for milk, when, in fact, most are nutritionally inferior.”