This week, dairy lobby group National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that urges the government organization to force producers of plant-based milk to use labels with terms such as “imitation,” “substitute,” and “alternative,” to describe their products. NMPF’s petition comes after the FDA closed its public comment period about the labeling of plant-based dairy products. Michele Simon, Executive Director of lobby group Plant Based Food Association (PBFA), believes the demands of NMPF’s petition is a violation of constitutional rights. “The latest volley from the National Milk Producers Federation does not change PBFA’s fundamental position: that this is a solution in search of a problem,” Simon said. “Requiring such a disparaging word as “imitation” on labels would indeed violate the First Amendment because there is no compelling government interest here.” In its petition, NMPF argues that plant-based milk is “nutritionally inferior” to its animal-derived counterparts and therefore labels that feature the word “milk”—even with a qualifier such as “dairy-free” and “plant-based”—mislead consumers. “Plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk and other dairy products are not ‘nutritionally inferior,’ they are simply different. Courts have also agreed with this position,” Simon said. This week, PBFA-member Califia Farms unveiled “Übermilk,” a line of plant-based milk formulated to be nutritionally equivalent (and, in some aspects, superior) to dairy milk with more calcium and Vitamin D, and less sugar.
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