Need for Lab-Based Beverage Action as Clear as a Milk Label

It’s the difference between

“Water, animal-free whey protein (from fermentation), sunflower oil, sugar, less than 1% of: vitamin A, vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin D2, riboflavin, citrus fiber, salt, dipotassium phosphate, acacia, gellan gum, mixed tocopherols (antioxidant), calcium potassium phosphate citrate, natural flavor,” …

and this:

We’ve warned FDA of the problems resulting from this fabrication, and we hope our warning doesn’t fall on deaf ears. After more than four decades of plant-based imposters using dairy terms that violate the agency’s Standard of Identity for milk, lab-based fermenters of single dairy proteins are trying to mislead consumers in the exact same way – by creating a false impression that their slurries of highly processed ingredients are equivalent to dairy.

They’re not. And consumers shouldn’t be led to believe otherwise.

In a letter to FDA asking the agency to take action against the brand Bored Cow, which is marketing its beverage as “animal-free dairy milk” because it uses a single fermented whey protein (real milk has dozens of protein variants and literally hundreds of different fatty acids), the National Milk Producers Federation notes that “it is baseless, preposterous and absurd” to call such a product milk.

“In the interest of public health, the misleading labeling charade must end before it gets out of hand,” NMPF writes. “FDA must act, and must do so now.”

Will it? While FDA’s proposed guidance on the naming of plant-based beverages finally admits a problem, the lab-based conundrum shows how its purported solution – allowing imitators to use the term “milk” if they disclose nutritional differences – falls short. It’s not just about the limited nutrition knowledge we have. It’s about the substance itself, and the complex interaction among naturally-occurring  ingredients that any honest marketer, scientist or regulator knows we don’t fully understand. That humility, and the need to protect against consumer confusion that’s been acknowledged by the last three FDA commissioners, is more than enough reason to take action now.

Because without it, the imposters will proliferate, the headaches will grow, and the marketplace will only become less transparent, in yet another abandonment of FDA’s mission to protect consumers. FDA must enforce its Standard of Identity rules on lab-based dairy labeling now. The need is as basic as the ingredient listing on a bottle of milk. FDA can’t let that clear principle be dragged through the mud – or whatever substances these fake “milks” are made of.

NMPF Files Comments to Cell-Based Meat Docket

NMPF filed comments to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking entitled “Labeling of Meat or Poultry Comprised of or Containing Cultured Animal Cells,” emphasizing consumers right to know that they are consuming cell-based/lab-grown products through the label on the product. The comments, filed Nov. 9, highlighted:

  • The need to enforce already existing standards;
  • That the word “cultured” should not be used to describe these products, as the term is associated with cultured dairy products including yogurt, and kefir among others;
  • Products containing lab-grown animal cells should clearly state that;
  • USDA should coordinate policies with FDA while developing these standards; and
  • “Cell-based,” “lab-grown,” or “synthetic” would all be appropriate labels for these products.

FSIS should move expeditiously through the normal rulemaking process and not waste years developing rules while not making the same blunders that FDA has. The full comments can be found here.