Can “milk” be used on plant-based foods?

MilksUnder pressure from the dairy industry, the government is trying make it so that plant-based alternatives to dairy can’t use the terms “milk”, “butter” or “cheese” on their product labels. The excuse is that the consumer can’t tell the difference between dairy milk and soy milk, and so may be confused. It doesn’t take a PhD to know that almonds, coconuts, rice and cashews don’t come from a cow!

The government’s resistance is all the more wrong since dairy-free products, such as soy milk, have been given a place in the USDA and FDA guidelines, and their use is recommended by many health authorities. Today’s consumers are looking for dairy alternatives in increasing numbers. These dairy-free products meet consumer demand.

It is the position Vegetarians of Washington that non-dairy products labeled as milk, yogurt, cheese or butter do not confuse the consumer. Consider that consumers have easily understood that peanut butter and coconut milk are non-dairy food products for many years. The base of such non-dairy products are commonly known foods such as almond, cashew, soy and rice, and they are already well established in the marketplace using terms such as milk, yogurt, cheese or butter to define the consistency of the food rather than its ingredients.

The fact that the product is non-dairy is clearly displayed on the package, as that is its chief selling point. The ingredient list will reinforce this. No specialized or technical knowledge is required of the consumer.

If you worry about the ingredients in plant-based products, you’ll find our Guide to Plant-Based Shopping very helpful.