Food Business News - August 7, 2018 - 21
F.D.A. outlines strategy for
review of standards of identity
The F.D.A. plans to assess if
some parents may erroneously
assume plant-based milks
have the same nutritional
components as cow's milk.
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While milk has received the lion's share of attention,
the agency is considering all standards of identity
WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration is undertaking a review of
milk's standard of identity. The initiative
is being presented as an effort to protect
public health and ensure consumers
are clear about the differences between
"milk" as it is defined by federal regulations and plant-based beverages that use
milk in the product's name.
"Food labels - including the name
of food - inform consumers about what
they're buying, and standards of identity
are used to ensure that foods have the
characteristics expected by consumers,"
said Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner
of the F.D.A. "The information provided
through food labeling must be truthful
and not misleading. The consumer choices made based on this information can
have important impacts on health."
Dr. Gottlieb's comments came the
same day the F.D.A. held its Nutrition Innovation Strategy meeting in Rockville,
Md. The meeting's overarching goal is
to take a fresh look at what may be done
to reduce preventable death and disease
related to poor nutrition.
A part of that effort involves modernizing the F.D.A.'s standards of identity. The
F.D.A.'s standard of identity of milk, for example, is "the lacteal secretion, practically
free of colostrum, obtained by the complete
milking of one or more healthy cows."
August 7, 2018
"One area that needs greater clarity
- and which has been the subject of
much discussion of late - is the wide
variety of plant-based foods that are
being positioned in the marketplace as
substitutes for standardized dairy products," Dr. Gottlieb said. "Many of these
plant-based foods use traditional dairy
terms (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese) in the
name of the product.
"For instance, we've seen a proliferation of products made from soy, almond
or rice calling themselves milk. However,
these alternative products are not the food
that has been standardized under the
name 'milk' and which has been known to
Milk, as defined by the F.D.A., is "lacteal
secretion, practically free of colostrum,
obtained by the complete milking of one or
more healthy cows."
the American public as 'milk' long before
the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (F.D.&C. Act) was established. In
addition, some of these products can vary
widely in their nutritional content - for
instance in relation to inherent protein or
in added vitamin content - when compared to traditional milk."
The F.D.A. plans to look at the
differences in relation to potential public
health consequences, Dr. Gottlieb said.
"There are reports that indicate this
issue needs examination," he said. "For
example, case reports show that feeding
rice-based beverages to young children
resulted in a disease called kwashiorkor,
a form of severe protein malnutrition.
There has also been a case report of a
toddler being diagnosed with rickets, a
disease caused by vitamin D deficiency,
after parents used a soy-based alternative to cow's milk.
"Because these dairy alternative
products are often popularly referred to
as 'milk,' we intend to look at whether
parents may erroneously assume that
plant-based beverages' nutritional contents are similar to those of cow's milk,
despite the fact that some of these products contain only a fraction of the protein
or other nutrients found in cow's milk."
The agency is planning a two-prong
approach in its review. The first will
involve a public discussion of how consumers understand the use of terms like
milk in both animal- and plant-based
products. The agency also will be reviewing the nutritional characteristics and
other differences between the product
"We also are actively looking at how
we have been enforcing the F.D.&C. Act
with respect to food names and our own
standard of identity for milk and what
it means when milk is qualified with
words like almond or soy," Dr. Gottlieb
said. "We recognize that, as a regulatory
agency, it's not appropriate to unilaterally change our regulatory approach if we
have a history of non-enforcement. We
also need to closely consider the potential First Amendment issues related to
the different uses of these terms."
Dr. Gottlieb emphasized that while
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