Sending Office: Honorable Peter Welch
Sent By:

Deadline: Thursday, Sept 27

Dear Colleague:

We invite you to join us in writing to FDA concerning the use of the term “milk” by plant-based products.

The dairy industry faces numerous challenges. While the reasons for them are varied, one piece of the solution that could be implemented by the Administration is to address the misrepresentative use of the term milk by plant-based beverages, such as those
labeled “almond milk” and “rice milk.”

Milk is a unique product providing an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that plant-based beverages fail to match. By taking advantage of the milk brand, plant-based beverages are improperly implying nutritional equivalence and misleading consumers
as to their true nutrient content.

Currently, the
FDA is taking steps
to advance health and improve nutrition through the agency’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy. One renewed area of focus in this plan is “modernizing standards of identity,” for example, dairy standards that qualify what can be labeled
as “milk” or “yogurt.”

We were pleased to see FDA Commissioner Gottlieb
recently note
support for efforts to address the use of “milk” by these misbranded products. As the agency considers how to address these labels, our letter requests that FDA clearly indicate that plant-based products should be prohibited from using dairy

To sign onto the letter, please contact
(Welch) or



PETER WELCH                                   MIKE SIMPSON

Member of Congress                            Member of Congress


September XX, 2018

The Honorable Scott Gottlieb


U.S. Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD  20993

Re:  Docket No. FDA-2018-N-2381


Dear Commissioner Gottlieb:

We are pleased that your agency plans to take action to enforce FDA regulations defining what may be labeled a dairy product, to combat the proliferation of imitation and substitute dairy products in the marketplace that violate FDA regulations by employing
standardized dairy terms on non-dairy products.  We appreciate that you are following the direction provided to your agency by Congress in the recently-enacted Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625).

We are greatly concerned about the lack of enforcement of existing dairy terms that are described in 21 Code of Federal Regulations parts 131, 133, and 135, which pertain to milk and cultured milk products, cheeses, and frozen dairy desserts, respectively. 
These standards were written with the express purpose of promoting honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers by promulgating regulations that fix and establish, under their common or usual names, reasonable definitions or standards of identity
for foods.

As you know, in recent years the proliferation of imitation and substitute dairy foods and beverages that are labeled with standardized dairy terms has dramatically increased.  Use of the term “milk” by manufacturers of plant-based products is a clear violation
of milk’s standard of identity, and this type of labeling practice is extending to other plant-based versions mimicking butter, yogurt, cheese and ice cream.  Moreover, dairy terms convey specific information for consumers on nutritional content and ingredient
performance that dairy imitations and substitutes do not meet.  Imitation and substitute dairy products do not have standardized requirements for product nutritional content, composition, and processing as do the dairy products they imitate.  Most importantly,
they are not sourced from cows or other lactating mammals as referenced in the standards established in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Given that dairy terms are being misappropriated by manufacturers of imitation dairy products, we are pleased that FDA now plans to take action to address this issue.  As your agency moves forward, we urge you to clearly indicate that imitation products
will not be considered in compliance with regulations if they simply add the name of a plant material in front of a standardized dairy term, or otherwise reference dairy terms.  Modifying the word “milk” with a plant product descriptor does not result in appropriate
names for non-dairy beverages, as these products do not contain milk or milk ingredients, the plant-based liquids are not permitted ingredients in milk, and they do not represent the common or usual names of these beverages.

Some manufacturers of non-standardized imitation dairy products do properly label their products without resorting to standardized dairy names.  The current marketplace includes, for example, “rice beverage,” or fanciful names that do not have “milk” included
in the name of the beverage on the front of the package.  We also note that similar standards limiting dairy terms for use on real dairy products are the rule, not the exception, around the world, and that U.S. manufacturers of plant-based foods already comply
with these regulations when they export their products.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your willingness to act.  We look forward to working with you to enforce existing dairy standards of identity.


Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, HealthCare

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