Reading Time: 2 minutes Even unsophisticated consumers would not be misled by vegan milk drinks being labeled as 'milk', said a judge
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Good Food Institute [GFI] has waded into the row over whether plant-milks should be labeled ‘imitation’ milk.

The GFI is an independent, non-profit devoted to creating a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply. According to a blog post by the organization: “The dairy industry believes that soy and almond milk makers should be censored from calling their products what they are, soymilk and almond milk.”

The dairy industry has claimed that calling non-dairy products – like almond milk – milk, can ‘confuse consumers’.

‘Milk must come from an animal’

Last year the GFI filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration [FDA], asking manufacturers to allow the use of standardized dairy terms such as ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, and ‘yogurt’ across vegan products.

But the National Milk Producers Federation [NMPF] urged the FDA to reject the petition – saying the request clashes with established laws and is inconsistent with FDA regulations – which state that ‘milk’ must come from an animal.

‘Common sense’

In addition, the NMPF’s CEO Jim Mulhern said the request ‘flies in the face of established law and common sense’.

Writing in the 20-page comment section on the petition, he said: “Nothing has happened in the last 20 years that makes it OK to combine plant or nut powders with water, sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and other chemicals, and call it ‘milk’.

“This request is wrong on its merits and is designed to further mislead consumers.”


But when the dairy industry took its case to federal court last year, Judge Stephen V. Wilson said ‘no reasonable consumer could be misled’ by almond milk labels.

He added: “Even the least sophisticated consumer would know instantly the type of product they are purchasing.”

‘Tired trope’

According to the GFI: “But plaintiffs’ lawyers are back with the same tired trope, begging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to smack down the industry’s ridiculous arguments yet again, in Painter v. Blue Diamond.

“GFI lawyers have weighed in to defend the free speech of plant-based companies.”

GFI’s Attorney, Nigel Barrella, added: “The dairy industry’s argument is not just an absurd distortion of the law, but it also would violate the First Amendment.

“Food producers have free speech rights too, and the Government cannot force them to use vague and derogatory names like ‘imitation milk’.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.