Public Interest Law Firm Encourages FDA to Allow Plant-based Milk Producers to Call Their Products Milk

Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · April 25, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—The Institute for Justice (IJ), a nonprofit public interest law firm that litigates First Amendment issues, gave measured praise to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance on the labeling of plant-based milk alternatives in comments submitted to the agency. IJ has represented small food companies in legal battles over labels, including litigating against the FDA in a case that freed dairy farmers to truthfully label their skim milk.

“We commend the FDA for rejecting the dairy industry’s push to ban common terms like ‘coconut milk’ and ‘almond milk,’ as well as for recognizing that the dairy industry’s proposed approach would cause ‘First Amendment considerations,’” said IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson. “However, we caution the FDA against recommending ‘voluntary nutrient statements’ for plant-based food labels, lest they ever cease to be voluntary.”

The FDA’s rule would permit plant-based milks to use the word “milk” on their label, a position vigorously opposed by the dairy industry. However, a second part of the draft guidance proposes “Voluntary Nutrient Statements” for plant-based foods. In its comments, IJ tells the FDA that these statements are both bad policy and could devolve into a requirement that violates the First Amendment.