The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently dismissed a class-action lawsuit against California-based Blue Diamond Growers, the producer of Blue Diamond almond milk, ruling that its “milk” label does not violate federal law. In Painter v. Blue Diamond Growers, the plaintiffs alleged that Blue Diamond’s almond milk products should be labeled “imitation milk” because they “substitute for and resemble dairy milk but are nutritionally inferior to it.” The court determined that under the “reasonable consumer” standard that governs these claims, the plaintiffs must show that members of the public are “likely to be deceived” by Blue Diamond’s labeling and advertising practices. “Notwithstanding any resemblance to dairy milk, almond milk is not a ‘substitute’ for dairy milk as contemplated by [federal law] because almond milk does not involve literally substituting inferior ingredients for those in dairy milk,” the court found. Last year, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sought input from the public on its understanding of terms such as “milk,” “cheese,” and “yogurt” when included in the names of plant-based products. The information it gathers will inform the FDA’s decision as to whether plant-based milk products need special labeling rules.
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