In an udderly unprecedented move, the dairy industry is waging war over the definition of milk. The Good Food Institute — a nonprofit that promotes plant-based meat, dairy, and egg substitutes — has submitted a 59-page petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to issue a new rule that would end the debate on the definition of milk.
Dairy industry advocates have increased pressure on the FDA to enforce its existing definition, which excludes plant-based alternatives. This scramble to define milk comes directly on the heels of new sales numbers that show the growth of milk alternatives like soy milk and almond milk outpacing traditional milk, likely due to a combination of lactose allergies and dietary restrictions. If the dairy industry gets its way, non-dairy “milk” products would have to rename their products.
“You haven’t ‘got milk’ if it comes from a seed, nut, or bean,” Jim Mulhern, the president of the National Milk Producers Federation, told Congress, according to Quartz. “In the many years since we first raised concerns about the misbranding of these products, we’ve seen an explosion of imitators attaching the word ‘milk’ to everything from hemp to peas to algae.”
Currently, the FDA does not include non-dairy products in its broad-ranging definition of milk, but the proposed rule would further narrow down the legal lactose definition to exclude products not made from the milk of animals.
If you’re thinking we’ve seen this before, it’s because the case echoes similar quandaries resulting from efforts by Hellmann’s last year to scrub the name “mayo” from Hampton Creek’s vegan mayo.