The fight is still on — agriculture and dairy industries vs. plant-based food and beverage companies over the terms “burger,” “milk,” “cheese” and others. Big Ag says that “burger” and the like should only be used to signify products made with meat; and the dairy industry claims that milk and cheese is only made with dairy. That is, unless you ask those who make almond, coconut, soy and other milks — and vegan and vegetarian cheese, burgers …
Last summer, the FDA jumped into the fight. The agency surveyed consumers regarding their perception of plant-based milk and found most people considered it to be as nutritionally beneficial as dairy milk.
Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a class action lawsuit against California-based Blue Diamond Growers, which uses the word “milk” in its almond milk labeling. The suit claimed that advertising its almond drink as “milk” was misleading.
Despite the court ruling, the FDA is moving forward with its proposed rule to require almond milk, soy milk, etc. to be called fake, imitation or alternative beverages. With former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s since departure, the fate of the ban is uncertain.
Blue Diamond, however, plans to expand its processing plant in Turlock to accommodate increased production of almond milk. The expansion, scheduled for completion in 2020, will make a butter-like base for the Almond Breeze brand. The base will be shipped to locations around the world, where water will be added to create almond milk.
Certain states have now passed laws regarding meat alternatives, arguing that only foods made from animals can hold the names burger, hot dog, jerky and sausage — so far Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. Arkansas also banned cauliflower and broccoli “rice” being called rice.
Lawmakers in Europe have made similar moves. The European Parliament’s agriculture committee passed a proposal this year that would prevent nonmeat products from using labels associated with meat.
In March of this year, the USDA and the FDA have both taken on the role of regulating “cultured meat,” meaning meatless meat such as soy burgers, veggie burgers, etc.
If everyone stayed in their own lane, would it be better for both company and consumer alike? Do consumers have to be told that ALMOND milk isn’t actually milk? That was one reason the new larger ingredient labels were created — so there is no confusion about what is or isn’t in the product.
I’d love to know your thoughts.