Dairy lobby group the American Butter Institute (ABI) recently sent a letter to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to urge the government organization to disallow the use of “butter” on plant-based products. ABI named seven vegan products—including Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Fora Foods’ FabaButter Dairy-Free Butter—as misbranded and therefore misleading to consumers. “These imposter products don’t contain actual dairy ingredients, and cannot match real butter’s positive attributes,” ABI executive director Tom Balmer said. “We’re bringing this deception to [the] FDA so that it can rectify the issue and ensure truth and fairness in the marketplace.” Meat and dairy lobby groups have only recently begun to petition the enforcement of plant-based labeling standards—actions that coincide with the exponential growth of various sectors of the plant-based industry and consumer demand for vegan products.
Earlier this year, Missouri passed the Missouri Meat Marketing Law after heavy lobbying of its precursor Senate Bill 627—supported by state’s pork producers, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and Missouri Farm Bureau—which was initially intended to preclude plant-based meat companies from using terms such as “meat,” “beef,” and “pork” to describe animal-free products. In its final form, the law allows appropriate qualifiers (such as “vegan” and “plant-based”) to be used in conjunction with “meat,” allowing companies such as Beyond Meat to continue selling its products in the state without a need to rebrand.
Companies in the plant-based milk sector (predicted to reach $35 billion by 2024) are facing similar opposition, which many have contested as an unconstitutional ploy by the dairy industry to limit free corporate speech and curtail competition. In 2016, politicians from dairy-producing states proposed the Dairy Pride Act in a mission to ban the use of terms such as “milk,” “cheese,” and “yogurt,” on plant-based products, citing that consumers are confused by labels on plant-based foods that contain these terms. Last month, the FDA opened a public forum for consumers to comment on milk-labeling standards to help it draft guidelines for the labeling standards of dairy-free products.