The Food and Drug Administration is failing to address soy, rice, nut and hemp beverage products labeled as "milk," even though it is devoting attention to regulating the names of certain types of sugar, says the National Milk Producers Federation.
In a letter sent Monday as part of an FDA request for comments regarding the naming of "dried cane syrup" or "evaporated cane juice" – a type of dried sugar used as a food ingredient -- NMPF Vice President of Dairy Foods & Nutrition Beth Briczinski said the agency has shown a "lack of effort" on misbranded and mislabeled imitation dairy products, even as it considers common names of sugar products.
It seems rather "disingenuous" for FDA to utilize its often-referenced "limited resources" to issue additional labeling guidance, while simultaneously not enforcing existing regulations pertaining to the identity of foods including imitation dairy products, the letter said.
NMPF added that it wouldn't advise FDA "on an appropriate name for what would be obvious to most consumers is a type of sweetener," but is concerned about FDA's allocation of resources to such an effort.
"The Agency has blatantly disregarded the names displayed on the labels of imitation dairy products (e.g., 'soy milk', 'rice yogurt', etc.) in the current marketplace. While the FDA has made its position clear through warning letters to several manufacturers…NMPF would argue that these actions have been too infrequent to be effective, essentially creating a labeling landscape free of enforcement," the letter said.
The letter is the latest in a series, dating back to 2000, in which NMPF has urged the agency to enforce existing requirements for the labeling of imitation foods specifying that many milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream substitutes produced from vegetable or plant materials are not nutritionally equivalent to real dairy products.
"Manufacturers of these imitation products have misled American consumers for far too long – making a mockery of currently labeling regulations – by usurping the 'dairy halo' associated with wholesome and nutritious milk and dairy products," the letter said.