FDA’s Draft Guidance for Plant-Based Milk Labeling

FDA Releases Draft Guidance on Labeling of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives Amid Mixed Industry Responses

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advanced its regulatory agenda by releasing a draft guidance for the labeling of plant-based milk alternatives. The guidance, dubbed “Labeling of plant-based milk alternatives and voluntary nutrient statements: guidance for industry,” is a strategic move designed to ensure consumer clarity. Over the past years, the plant-based milk industry has diversified beyond soy and almond, introducing a wide variety of new plant sources. This diversification has necessitated clear labeling standards to help consumers make informed decisions.

Industry Feedback and Concerns

The FDA’s draft guidance has sparked extensive industry feedback, with over 900 comments. Representatives of the dairy industry argue that the guidance falls short in preventing misleading labeling and does not satisfactorily address the issue of nutritional confusion. Organizations such as the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have voiced their concerns, calling for clearer on-package statements regarding the nutritional differences between plant-based alternatives and dairy milk.

Support and Opposition

While some industry stakeholders have expressed concerns, others have welcomed the FDA’s initiative. Danone North America, a leading player in the food industry, has shown support for the FDA’s recognition of plant-based alternatives and the use of the term ‘milk.’ On the other hand, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) opposes nutrient comparison disclaimers. PBFA argues that such measures could potentially lead to consumer confusion and impose onerous burdens on plant-based milk companies.

The FDA’s Recommendations and the Path Forward

The FDA’s recommendations include voluntary statements for comparing plant-based alternatives with dairy milk based on USDA nutrient criteria. Despite the varying opinions and concerns, the FDA maintains that clear labeling is crucial for consumers to comprehend the nutritional differences between plant-based alternatives and dairy milk. In an era where plant-based diets and products are gaining traction due to reasons such as population growth, health concerns, ethical reasons, and environmental concerns, the FDA’s guidance serves as a significant step towards consumer transparency and informed decisions.

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