The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said it supports the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s proposal to revoke an authorized health claim that links soy protein with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The organization also repeated its insistence that FDA take action against plant-based food companies that use dairy terminology inappropriately to market imitation dairy products, such as soy “milk.”
Last fall, FDA announced its proposal to revoke the health claim because numerous studies since the original authorization of the claim in 1999 have presented “inconsistent findings” regarding the relationship between soy protein and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
In comments submitted Monday, NMPF commended the agency for undergoing the rigorous review of recent science to take a closer look at the health benefits of soy protein.
Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of NMPF, lauded FDA for acknowledging the continuing evolution of nutrition science and information. “Research on nutrition and health continually changes, and FDA’s regime for health claims must recognize this basic fact,” he said. “FDA is appropriately acknowledging that health claims are not carved in stone but can and should be periodically reviewed in light of evolving nutrition evidence.”
Mulhern added, “New research revealing the lack of heart benefits from soy protein -- or, just as important, a positive effect from dairy fat -- means that Americans can make more informed, healthier decisions regarding their diets.”
FDA’s proposed rule comes almost 10 years after the agency initially announced its intent to re-evaluate the science behind the soy protein health claim. During this extended time, NMPF said, soy food manufacturers have exploited the claim to advertise their products as healthy, when science has not supported that claim.
Certain soy food companies have used the claim when labeling their imitation dairy products, insisting that because of soy’s purported healthful properties, soy “milk” is a healthy alternative to conventional cow’s milk. Not only is this health claim without significant scientific support, based on FDA’s proposed rule, but it also blatantly skirts federal regulations on the labeling of dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt, NMPF said.
“It is imperative that consumers have accurate label information in addition to health claims – specifically, the name of the food, which also conveys nutrition information,” NMPF said, reiterating its plea for FDA to take enforcement action against such products.