You say soy milk, I say…still soy milk. Let’s be real: Everyone says soy milk.
Despite this fact, the dairy industry wants the FDA to punish soy milk producers – and other companies producing dairy-free, plant-based alternatives – for using the terms "milk," "cheese," and "yogurt" in their labels.
The reason? The dairy industry says it’s because consumers are “being misled” and that shoppers are confusing these plant-based alternatives for something that comes from a cow.
But as the Associated Press reports, emails uncovered by The Good Food Institute reveal that even the USDA uses the term soy milk – and in its educational materials to the public, no less! That’s because soy milk is precisely the term consumers are most familiar with and that best describes the product.
Put differently: It’s the least misleading term one could possibly use. And that doesn’t make the dairy industry’s motives look so great. Instead of “protecting consumers,” the dairy industry is clearly trying to protect its own profits, at the expense of consumer choice and the expense of companies that are creating more sustainable plant-based alternatives.
While multiple judges have already called the dairy industry’s claims of consumer confusion patently "implausible,” with one judge in California saying “even the least sophisticated consumer would know instantly the type of product they are purchasing” with current labels – there is still a bill in the House and Senate that would result in a federal crackdown on plant-based dairy. Plus, the EU recently passed a bill that would prevent companies from using the term "soymilk" on packages there. But Google search statistics show that consumers still use the name, making it clear that government efforts to try to censor language are ineffective, and that consumers prefer the term soy milk to any other wonky alternative.
I would be surprised if the justification “but they do it in France” carried any weight with the current leadership in Washington, but we at GFI still believe it’s important to settle this issue in the states once and for all and eliminate uncertainty on the marketplace for plant-based dairy producers. Personally, I would love to see Miyoko's Kitchen be able to market its products as cashew cheeses instead of "cultured nut products."
The FDA has been allowing companies and governing bodies to use the term soymilk for years. With our Official Rulemaking Petition, GFI is simply asking the FDA to codify what it’s already been allowing in practice.
To learn more about our petition, click here.
And to learn about the rest of our work creating a better future of food, check out what we do!