Vermont Congressman Says Almond and Soy Milk Are Mislabeled, Wants New Rules

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said the word “milk” only belongs on products containing dairy

More than 30 members of Congress are pressing the federal Food and Drug Administration to stop manufacturers of almond milk, soy milk, and cashew milk, from using the word “milk” on their labels if the products contain no dairy.

“Those products — soy products for instance — are good products, and consumers who like them can use them, but they can’t appropriate the name ‘milk’ if that’s really not what it is,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, who led the bipartisan effort in Congress.

In a new letter to the FDA, Welch and colleagues say non-dairy products, including almond milk, are often mislabeled, and request the FDA to require the adoption of a new name that does not use the word “milk.”

At the St. Albans Co-op Creamery, dairy farmers cheered the new push.

“We just want to level the playing field,” said Harold Howrigan, the board chair of the cooperative.

Howrigan also said he believes almond milk and cashew milk belong in a different place in grocery stores, perhaps in the produce section, because they are not dairy products.

“We don’t think they should be placed side-by-side because they don’t belong there,” he told necn. “They’re a totally different makeup, and we don’t feel they should be in the dairy case.”

Rep. Welch also argued that dairy offers unmatched nutrition.

According to the letter authored by Rep. Welch and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, sales of dairy milk fell 7 percent in 2015.

Conversely, the letter cites a Nielsen survey that shows sales of plant-based drinks have risen more than 250 percent over the past five years, to nearly $900-million.

The sales shift comes at a time production costs of dairy and low prices paid for fluid milk are making farming difficult, Welch said.

“Our dairy farmers are really struggling,” he added. “They’re hanging on by their fingernails and we need to help them out.”

At My Little Cupcake in downtown Burlington, baker Steph Riggs goes through a lot of soy milk as a key ingredient in some of the shop’s cupcakes and frosting.

“We get special orders for vegan, quite a bit,” she said.

Riggs said at home, she generally uses almond milk. She said she certainly knows the difference between a cow’s milk and almond milk, but will continue using almond milk because she loves it.

The members of Congress who wrote the FDA included Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-New Hampshire, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York.

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