An overwhelming majority of the public is in favor of allowing plant-based foods to use dairy terms such as “milk,” “yogurt,” and “cheese” on product labels. This comes from a new review commissioned by trade group Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) of more than 7,000 public comments (a random sampling of the 11,903 publicly-available comments) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the use of dairy terms for plant-based milks, which found that 76 percent of the submissions advocated for the continued use of descriptive dairy terms on plant-based milks and other dairy alternatives. The comments were the result of the FDA soliciting public input through a Request for Information last fall to help the agency determine if any action is warranted on labeling of the increasing number of plant-based dairy alternatives on the market. “These results send FDA officials a clear message: Do not restrict plant-based food companies from using words in the English language that consumers recognize and understand,” PBFA Executive Director Michele Simon said. The review—which was conducted by third-party research group Linkage Research & Consulting—found that 13.5 percent of the reviewed comments advocated in favor of restricting the use of dairy terms for plant-based products, but approximately half were submitted by self-described dairy farmers. Of commenters who identified themselves as consumers, 87 percent said they are not confused by the differences between plant-based dairy alternatives and products made from cow’s milk. “The FDA should abide by free market principles and not restrict plant-based foods to unfairly benefit the dairy industry,” Simon said. Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 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.
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