The milk in your local grocery’s dairy aisle is claiming identity theft, and it even has a proposed bill in Congress to bolster its case.
According to Fortune, the milk industry has twice attempted in the last two decades to convince the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce its definition of milk, “the lacteal secretion…obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” The definition means the almond, coconut, soy, cashew or pea milk sold in grocery stores technically doesn’t make the cut. It is a point of contention for traditional milk producers because the FDA has long turned a blind eye to any alternative uses.
In January, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduced the Dairy Pride Act in an attempt to force the FDA to enforce the technical definition and expand it to all hoofed mammals. The bill contends labeling plant-based products as milk confuses consumers, especially when considering the nutritional differences. Last month, the plant-based milk industry countered with a “Not Milk” digital ad campaign, according to the news source.
The push from the dairy industry comes in light of declining sales, though the drop predates the rise of plant-based milks. Adam Lowry, CEO of Ripple, a pea-based milk start up, told Fortune though he believes the milk industry is playing defense due to declining sales, he does note the nutritional differences between the two. For example, traditional milk has more calcium than alternatives. Nutrition seems to be the biggest sticking point.
“For years, dairy farmers have informed consumers about the valuable nutrition in dairy products,” Senator Baldwin said in a statement to Fortune. “It’s unfair that imitations are marketed using the good name of dairy to sell their products, yet have nutrients that are often not the same as the dairy products they imitate.”
In the meantime, plant-based companies are using “linguistic gamesmanship to communicate,” Matthew Sade, CEO of plant-based cheese and yogurt company Kite Hill, said. The company currently calls its cheese equivalent an “almond milk product” instead of cheese to avoid legal risk.