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Milk wars: Controversy over plant-based ‘milk’ explained in Ag Law Center white paper

Although debate and conflict have surrounded the term “milk” since 1997, there have been recent strides in the dairy industry’s conflict regarding the labeling of plant-based products as “milk.” A publication from the National Agricultural Law Center explains the dispute’s history, facts and recent events.
After a push from the dairy industry to ban terms like “soymilk,” the Soyfoods Association of North America created a petition in 1997 requesting that the Food and Drug Administration recognize the term “soymilk” through a “common or usual name regulation.” Neither the dairy industry nor the soy industry’s efforts caused a change in FDA regulation or enforcement.


Two decades later, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a state that calls itself “America’s Dairyland,”  introduced 2017’s “Dairy PRIDE Act” to ensure that the legal definition of milk, for labeling purposes, is defined as being “obtained by the complete milking of one or more hooved animals.”
Recently, Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, has stated that banning the word milk for plant-based products would provide more clarity and prevent consumer confusion. (See:
Meanwhile, lawmakers in some states are passing their own legislation on the issue.
“There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding this debate and any clarity will have to come from the FDA, and, most likely, the courts, to determine whether plant-based products can be labeled as ‘milk’,”  said Rusty Rumley, staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center.
Read the full story in the white paper, “Plant Based ‘Milk’ Labeling” here:
For more information on emerging issues in agricultural law, visit
About the National Agricultural Law Center
The National Agricultural Law Center serves as the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information. The Center works with producers, state and federal policymakers, Congressional staffers, attorneys, land grant universities, and many others to provide objective, nonpartisan agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community.
The Center is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and works in close partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, National Agricultural Library.
University of Arkansas, by Sarah Cato
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Terry Simmons