Rose Milk

If They Call It Rose Milk, Will You Drink It?

Rose MilkHave you noticed that lots of milk doesn’t come from mammary glands these days? Eager to tap into consumer fancies, innovators are offering up just about any kind of plant-based milk you can imagine. Almond, soy, flax, rice, hazelnut, hemp, quinoa, and cashew milk are some of the options. For rose milk, you still have to make your own. Do not drink the Rose Milk lotion.

Likewise, Rose brand pork brains with milk gravy don’t really fit the need either. But we digress.

The question here is one of identity. Selling beverages that aren’t milk, but calling them milk has become fashionable. Naturally, dairy farmers don’t like this. Making a living is tough enough for them already. Why should people get by with selling cheaper plant-based concoctions and passing them off as milk?

Those dairy farmers persuaded 32 members of Congress to write a letter to FDA, calling on the agency to enforce its regulations for the legal definition of milk. The letter’s co-author, Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, says:

The FDA regulation defines milk as something that comes from a mammary gland. So we’re asking the FDA basically to enforce its own regulation.

Viewed as a case of big food selling highly processed, sugar-sweetened beverage and passing it off as a wholesome milk product, this would be an open and shut case of misbranding and deceptive food labeling. When Congress established the FDA in 1936, a key mission for the agency was to prevent bad actors from selling fake foods that aren’t what they say they are.

Elsie the CowHowever, the world is different now. Elsie the Cow, once a sweet icon for wholesome milk, looks a little like a victim of agribusiness to many righteous people. Vegan-ish diets are oh so trendy. So consumers are looking for alternatives to dairy products. And it’s easier to sell those plant beverages if you call them milk.

Thus, for now, FDA is mum. The agency has little to gain by acting on this contentious bit of food politics.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

Click here to read more from NPR, here to read more from a dairy industry perspective, and here for the story from a vegan perspective.

Rose Milk, photograph © Tato / flickr

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December 22, 2016