Soy ‘milk’? FDA, USDA squabble over terminology

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Soy 'milk'? FDA, USDA squabble over terminology
Soy 'milk'? FDA, USDA squabble over terminology

USDA, farmers can’t agree on what to call soy ‘milk’.

The government calls soy milk by different terms depending on the audience, according to a report from the Associated Press Monday.

Soy beverages are not “milk” according to government regulations, yet federal agencies sometimes refers to it as soy milk and even classifies it as a dairy product on one government nutrition website.

The Department of Agriculture refused to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance to write “soy beverages” rather than “soy milk,” because nutritionists thought it would confuse the public, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press.

Despite milk being defined as lacteal secretions, the nutrition guidance website ChooseMyPlate.gov lists “soymilk” and “almond milk” as both “dairy” and “non-dairy calcium alternatives.”

The debate around marketing soy beverages as milk has a long history. A soy group lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to recognize the term soy milk in 1997, the Associated Press reports.

In one email, a Department of Health and Human Services nutrition advisor alerted the FDA that Agriculture Department officials were “are adamant about using the term in consumer publications.”

The USDA offered to use “soy beverage” for policy papers, but wanted to use “plain language” for public materials..

The FDA still milk strictly “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more hooved mammals.”

That means drinks made from from soy and almonds shouldn’t be marketed that way. Despite the definition, the FDA does not prevent non-dairy products from being labeled or marketed as “milk.”

Some lawmakers are pushing legislation to require the government to to enforce the FDA’s definition as milk and put a stop to non-dairy pretenders trying to gain milk’s market share.

The DAIRY PRIDE Act, sponsored by Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, “would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese.”

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