FDA Will (Maybe) Crack Down on Nondairy 'Milks'

July 20, 2018
Commissioner Gottlieb's comments are open to interpretation, but some agency response is expected.

Many are interpreting this week's statement by the head of the FDA as a warning that the agency will crack down on nondairy beverages using the term milk. That may be the case, although FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb only promised some action on the controversy.

“The question becomes, have we been enforcing our own standard of identity,” Gottlieb said at the June 20 Politico Pro Summit. “The answer is probably not.”

He added, “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”

Gottlieb was referring to FDA standards of identity, which define milk as coming from lactating cows. Nondairy products such as soy and almond beverages have grown in sales while milk sales have declined – although nondairy "milk" sales have plateaued recently.

Gottlieb did say at the Politico event the agency will soon issue a guidance outlining changes to its standards of identity policies for marketing milk. FDA will start gathering public comment before redefining the rules for milk products.

“This is going to take time,” he said. “It’s not going to take two years, but it probably takes something close to a year to get to go through that process.”

The dairy industry petitioned FDA to enforce marketing standards for milk, but the agency has not addressed the issue. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced a bill last year that would prevent nondairy products from using the term “milk,” but her bill has gone nowhere in Congress.

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