USA – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States is reviewing the use of dairy food names like ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, ‘yogurt’ in the labeling of plant-based food and beverages.

The FDA is stepping up approaches to modernize standards of identity including requirements for the content and sometimes the methods used to produce certain foods.

Foods may require to be labeled with information about what is in the food, its health benefits, and place of origin, where it was grown and how it was prepared.

The initiative looks to address concerns that some plant-based products are named with certain terms associated with dairy products, even though they vary widely in their nutritional content.

This affects both the understanding and interpretation of plant-based products compared to dairy products among consumers.

Many dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and certain cheeses, have standards of identity set by regulation but they have more recently, appeared in the labeling of plant-based products as part of the name or statement of identity of the product.

Health trends

FDA announced its Nutrition Innovation Strategy (NIS) that aims to promote public health by empowering consumers make informed decisions on their diet and health.

This could also be made possible by advocating for development of healthier foods and expanding the opportunities to use nutrition to reduce morbidity and mortality due to chronic disease.

Consumers are not only concerned about diet and nutrition but also want to learn what is in the food they eat, thus need for proper labelling of food and beverage products.

Manufacturers are responding to the consumer expectations by putting new health options on the shelves with indications such as being minimally processed, lower in sugar, and produced with wholesome ingredients.

According to Renub Research, global dairy alternatives market is expected to exceed US$34 billion by 2024, and this rapid growth has seen products with names like “soy milk,” “almond milk” and “vegan mozzarella cheese” hit market shelves.

Food manufacturers are reformulating products to boost fiber content, limit additives, and curb the amount of sodium and sugar.

They are also making healthful products with convenience such as “grab and go” pre-packaged salad combinations, yogurt packaged with fruits and nuts, or protein drinks; and sugar or salt reduction.

FDA is seeking public opinion on the use of plant-based products, understanding of dairy terms like milk, yogurt and cheese and nutritional characteristics of such products.