Last year, GFI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain records from the FDA regarding its policy on using “soy milk” on product labels. After months of waiting, FDA gave us only a paltry three pages of records in response. We sued the FDA for failing to meet the mandatory deadlines under FOIA and not disclosing all records to which we were entitled.
Today, we’re celebrating because the FDA produced the records—more than 900 pages in all—paid our attorney’s fees, and even agreed to reveal some previously redacted information as a result of the work of our policy team and our litigation counsel, Nigel Barrella, Esq.
Our team is still combing through the information, but one fact has been made clear: FDA practice generally allows the use of compound names such as “soy milk.” The documents also revealed that in places where the agency defined milk as the “lacteal secretions of one or more healthy bovine mammals,” it didn’t view those comments as carrying enforcement authority.
The dairy industry is currently lobbying the FDA to crack down on plant-based milks and force producers to remove the word “milk” from labels, precisely because these plant-based products do not contain “lacteal secretions.”
And thank goodness, right? I’ll take my soy milk sans secretions, please.
In the past, FDA’s enforcement of this labeling standard has been inconsistent, and its position on the utility of the standard overall has been unclear.
By submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, GFI sought to learn more about the agency’s history of enforcement related to soy milk labels. We also took a proactive approach and proposed our own solution. In a formal Petition for Rulemaking, GFI has asked the FDA to clarify its stance and let plant-based dairy products that are labeled with clear modifiers – like “soy”, “rice”, or “almond” – be allowed to maintain the labels that consumers recognize.
A fair marketplace for plant-based milk producers would ensure they’re not under constant threat of random and costly attacks on their branding. At GFI, we’re working to protect this fair market and end anti-competitive attacks from the dairy industry.
To learn more about The Good Food Institute’s work to support the development of sustainable plant-based foods, check out what we do!