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Draft Guidance Not Enough to Prevent Misleading Labeling, NMPF Tells FDA

ARLINGTON, VA – While the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) draft guidance on plant-based beverages acknowledges the public health concern regarding nutritional confusion, it falls woefully short of ending the decades-old problem of misleading plant-based labeling using dairy terminology, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said in comments submitted to the agency this week.

As the leading voice of American dairy producers, NMPF emphasized the importance of transparent product labeling to ensure consumer understanding and informed purchasing decisions, and urged FDA to take prompt enforcement action against misbranded non-dairy beverages that resemble milk.

“For far too long, plant-based beverage manufacturers have blurred well-defined standards of identity to inappropriately and unfairly capitalize on dairy’s nutritional benefits while FDA has ignored its enforcement obligations,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO. “FDA’s draft guidance is an encouraging first step toward promoting labeling transparency in the marketplace, but it’s not enough. Our comments outline a solution to the misleading labeling practices existing in the marketplace today, and provide clear, truthful labeling options for marketers of plant-based beverages.”

In its comments, NMPF commended FDA for its acknowledgement of consumer confusion over the nutritional content of dairy imitators. “For decades, NMPF has been frustrated with FDA’s unwillingness to enforce its own standards of identity for milk and milk products which continues today. We are encouraged by the agency’s acceptance of the reality of consumer confusion regarding nutritional content,” NMPF wrote. Still, NMPF cautioned FDA to adhere to the law by going through the proper legal process, as outlined in NMPF’s Citizen Petition and comments.

Because of the voluntary nature of the proposed guidance and FDA’s undependable labeling enforcement history, NMPF continues its work in Congress to pass the bipartisan, bicameral DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would direct FDA to enforce its own rules and clarify that dairy terms are for true dairy products.

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