July 22, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Deadline for FDA comment period closing July 31
The extended deadline of July 31 is drawing near for the closing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s comment period for its dairy labeling guidance. Many in the dairy industry are hoping that farmers who have not yet commented will find time to do so.
The FDA’s “Labeling of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives and Voluntary Nutrient Statements; Draft Guidance for Industry” first appeared in the Federal Register Feb. 23, drawing criticism by many as to the guidance not going far enough to stop the use of the term “milk” in marketing plant-based beverages. Those wishing to respond should submit comments to regulations.gov and identify those comments with the docket number FDA-2023-D-0451.
In its guidance language, the FDA recommended that plant-based beverage products labeled with the term “milk” in their names should “have a nutrient composition that is different than milk, include a voluntary nutrient statement that conveys how the product compares with milk based on USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria.”
The FDA said that such nutrient statements “will help consumers make informed dietary choices when it comes to understanding certain nutritional differences between plant-based products that are labeled with ‘milk’ in their names and milk.”
If followed, the guidance would help in clarifying dietary differences, but many in the dairy industry say that is a big if.
In a press release Feb. 28, Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, addressed the FDA’s guidance, saying it was a step in the right direction but it did not go far enough.
“FDA has acknowledged the problem of nutritional confusion without providing a complete solution,” Mulhern said. … “(FDA guidance) ultimately doesn’t remedy the problem it seeks to solve, which is the proven confusion among consumers created when plant-based beverages steal dairy terms to make their products appear healthier than they really are.”
For a previous Dairy Star article of April 8, Mykel Bickham, director of government affairs for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative & Dairy Business Association in Wisconsin, commented on the FDA’s position.
“We have consistently disagreed with the claim that milk is a common or usual name to be used for plant-based alternative product labeling,” Bickham said. “We have fought for years to have the agency correct this, and it is unfortunate that this guidance continues to disregard our concerns. Research has shown that consumers don’t understand the difference, especially the nutritional differences. Allowing the continued use of dairy terms accepts consumer confusion as tolerable instead of enforcing milk’s legal standard of identity.”
To make it easier for those wishing to comment but not having much spare time in which to do so, Dairy Farmers of America has created an action link that will help farmers submit comments in less than a minute. The link is available at https://p2a.co/B6hKTpQ.
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