U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published draft guidelines for industry on the naming of plant-based foods marketed and sold as milk substitutes. 

The draft guidance titled Labeling of Plant-based Milk Alternatives and Voluntary Nutrient Statements: Guidance for Industry, also suggests that some plant-based milk substitutes’ labels include voluntary nutrient claims.

The proposed guidance was created to address the enormous rise of plant-based milk substitutes that have occurred over the past ten years in the market. The guidelines are designed to give consumers clear labeling.

In addition to increased market availability and consumption, the range of alternative products available in the market has greatly increased from soy, rice, and almond to include cashew, coconut, flaxseed, hazelnut, hemp seed, macadamia nut, oat, pea, peanut, pecan, quinoa, and walnut-based beverages.

These products usually have names that include “milk” even though they are derived from liquid-based extracts of plant components like tree nuts, legumes, seeds, or grains.

According to the draft guidance, a plant-based milk alternative product with the term “milk” in its name (such as “soy milk” or “almond milk”) and that has a different nutrient composition from milk should include a voluntary nutrient statement that describes how the product compares with milk using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria.

For instance, the label might read, “Contains lower amounts of Vitamin D and calcium than milk.”

In September 2018, the FDA issued a request for data about the use of terminology like “milk” on the labels of plant-based milk substitutes (PBMA).

Following the receipt of more than 13,000 responses, the FDA concluded that most customers are aware that PBMA does not include milk and choose to buy PBMA because they are not milk.

Nonetheless, a lot of people may be unaware of the nutritional distinctions between milk and PBMA products.

In contrast to milk and fortified soy beverages, PBMA products made from almonds or oats do not fall under the dairy category in the 2020–2025 dietary recommendations, even though they may contain calcium and be taken as a source of calcium.

The dietary recommendations only include fortified soy beverages as belonging to the dairy group because of how closely their nutritious makeup resembles that of milk.

The draft guideline advises the industry to apply the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria to ascertain if a PBMA is nutritionally comparable to milk in order to maintain consistency across government nutrition policies.

The FDA is also developing a draft guidance to address the labeling and naming of other plant-based alternatives and is seeking comments on the same.

Comments must be made within 60 days following the publication of the draft guidance in the Federal Register.

South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) is reported to have imposed a ban on the use of meat-like terms on plant-based product labels last year, a move that angered the country’s alt-meat industry.

The South African Meat Processors Association backed the decision, arguing that such phrasing was “misleading.”

The DALRRD attempted to initiate immediate seizures of plant-based products with a schedule of August 23. However, a last-minute Johannesburg High Court order put a pause on the endeavor until at least May 8, 2023.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.