Status (4/13/21): PBFA submitted a letter in June, 2020 urging FDA to create a regulatory landscape that fosters innovation, specifically in terms of innovative ingredients, practices and processes for new products.
PBFA needs your help! As you may have seen, the dairy industry has been putting a lot of political pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to enforce outdated regulations related to the labeling of dairy alternatives such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
The FDA is now asking for input on what they are calling a “Request for Information”.
The agency recently extended the deadline, so we now have until Monday, January 28 to have our voices heard.
We will be submitting detailed comments on behalf of our members, but we also need you, our plant-based advocates, to tell the FDA what you think. Here are the three simple steps you can take to make a positive impact in the plant-based industry.
1) Go to this page.
2) Cut and paste from below or use your own words.
3) Fill in the additional information requested.
That’s it! Not sure what to say? We’ve broken down some key issue areas related to the regulations below. See what speaks to you and paste it into the form.
Prefer to keep your submission short and sweet? Just submit this one sentence:
We respectfully request that FDA refrain from making any change in its enforcement policy, whether in a guidance document or other form, that would limit the First Amendment rights of companies to label their foods with truthful, non-misleading labels to communicate to consumers who are seeking out plant-based dairy alternative foods and beverages.
Thank you for taking action and joining us in this fight to safeguard the plant-based foods industry from unfair and unnecessary regulation!
SUGGESTED TEXT FOR FDA COMMENTS
I am a proud supporter of the Plant Based Foods Association and the plant-based food industry.
I appreciate the opportunity to submit these comments.
Current labeling approach
The entire debate over the use of the term “milk” and other dairy terms on plant-based foods and beverages is a solution in search of a problem. Companies selling dairy alternatives are using easy to understand, clear, descriptive and truthful language on labels. Many brands use terms such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and cream, all with appropriate qualifiers such as “non-dairy,” “dairy-free,” and/or “alternative.” Plant-based companies are clear in their intent to convey to the consumer who is making the purchase that these options do not contain cow’s milk – as that is the primary reason that shoppers are choosing these foods and beverages.
Consumer Understanding of Labels
American consumers are sophisticated and increasingly aware of the origin and ingredients of the foods they are consuming. Consumers who purchase plant-based foods are keenly aware of what they are purchasing and why they are making these choices. Studies show that these shoppers purchase plant-based milks for myriad reasons, including sustainability, health, concerns about allergies, ethics, variety, and taste. If FDA were to require the use of new terminology on principal display panels of plant-based foods, I believe that it’s highly likely that this will result in more, not less, consumer confusion.
Consumer Understanding of Nutrition
I do not share the concern implied by FDA’s questions regarding potential risk of poor nutrition due differences between dairy products and plant-based alternatives. To the contrary, many consumers are seeking out plant-based milks and cheeses to avoid certain attributes in dairy such as saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, many consumers cannot consume dairy due to allergies or intolerance Consumers can easily obtain nutrients such as protein and calcium from plant-based foods.
Cost of Label Changes
If FDA were to require changes to the way that plant-based foods are labeled, the ensuing changes to manufacturer’s labels would prove to be a significant unexpected and unnecessary financial burden to most companies.
First Amendment and Labeling
The free speech clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects companies that label their foods with truthful, non-misleading names. PBFA’s legal analysis indicates that’s it’s unlikely that these efforts would survive a court challenge under the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
Enacting new labeling rules would create unnecessary, confusing, and costly label changes that likely violate the First Amendment and would be struck down in court. Ultimately, the question is whether current regulatory definitions can keep up with innovation? We are living in a time of rapid innovation in food and America is leading the way. Consumers are entitled to the benefits of this innovative American spirit and the delicious new plant-based offerings in the marketplace. The FDA has the unique opportunity to support this growing industry and the millions of American consumers who are voting with their dollars.
I respectfully request that FDA refrain from making any change in its enforcement policy, whether in a guidance document or other form, that would limit the First Amendment rights of companies to label their foods with truthful, non-misleading labels to communicate to consumers who are seeking out plant-based dairy alternative foods and beverages.