FDA aims to publish voluntary sodium reduction goals, draft guidance on labeling of plant-based milk alternatives by mid-2022

In a constituent update issued on Tuesday​ ​listing guidance documents it aims to publish by next summer, the FDA also highlighted plans to produce draft guidance on ‘Lead action levels for categories of foods consumed by babies and young children’​ in the wake of the recent Congressional Subcommittee report into heavy metals in babyfood.

It did not provide any indication that it plans to define ‘natural’ for the purposes of food labeling​, a process initiated in 2015 and something former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said the FDA was still working on​ in 2018, but has not been referenced by the agency since.

Plant-based milk labeling

However, it does intend to address the hotly-contested practice of using dairy terms to describe plant-based products, adding that it plans to issue draft guidance on ‘labeling of plant-based milk alternatives​’ by the end of June 2022.

While terms such as ‘soymilk’ and ‘oatmilk’ are prohibited in the EU (where Oatly is an Oat Drink), they are widely used in the US (where Oatly is Oat Milk). And the FDA – say critics – has fluctuated unhelpfully on the issue of whether such terms mislead shoppers or violate federal standards of identity,​ which limit the term ‘milk’ to the “lacteal secretions​” of cows.

For example, the FDA queried the term ‘soy milk’ in warning letters to a couple of manufacturers in 2008 and 2012, but thereafter maintained radio silence on the topic until Dr Gottlieb re-ignited the debate in mid-2018​, ​telling delegates at the Politico Pro summit in Washington that, “We have a standard of identity for milk and I intend to enforce that… an almond doesn’t lactate.”

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