It only took five years, but today (Feb. 22) the FDA issued a draft guidance on how marketers should label plant-based milk alternatives. Basically, if you use the term “milk” to describe your product, as in oat milk, compare it to milk.
Also basically, the agency acknowledges these plant-based beverages have not created any confusion among consumers who may think they are drinking a dairy product.
“The FDA recommends that PBMA [plant-based milk alternative] products that are labeled with the term ‘milk’ in their names, such as soy milk or almond milk, and that have a nutrient composition that is different than milk, include a voluntary nutrient statement that conveys how the product compares with milk based on USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria,” the announcement said.
“If a PBMA is not labeled with ‘milk’ as part of its name, but instead is labeled with another term like ‘beverage’ or ‘drink’ and does not make a claim comparing the product to milk, then the voluntary nutrient statement recommendations in the draft guidance do not apply.”
In 2018 the FDA started soliciting comments from the public on how consumers use PBMA products and how they understand the term “milk” when included in those names. The agency received more than 13,000 comments.
“After reviewing these comments and conducting focus group studies with consumers, the FDA determined that consumers generally understand that PBMA do not contain milk and choose PBMA because they are not milk,” today’s statement continued.
“However, many consumers may not be aware of the nutritional differences between milk and PBMA products. For example, almond or oat-based PBMA products may contain some calcium and be consumed as a source of calcium, but their overall nutritional content is not similar to milk.”
Still, this is a draft guidance, so more comments can be submitted within 60 days after publication in the Federal Register (around April 22). Send electronic comments to regulations.gov citing docket number FDA-2023-D-0451.