“An Almond Doesn’t Lactate”: Feds Move To Block The Use Of “Milk” In Almond Milk

1280px-Scott_Gottlieb_official_portraitFDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb may have come up with the greatest tagline since “White Men Don’t Jump.”  Gottlieb has announced that the agency is considering blocking the use of the term “almond milk” because “an almond doesn’t lactate.”

Gottlieb explained to Politico that the use of the label violates the “standard of identity” policy that regulates how milk is defined and should be identified.  “If you look at our standard of identity—there is a reference somewhere in the standard of identity to a lactating animal. And, you know, an almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”

Of course neither does soy or rice,  However, the milk industry has moved aggressively to get the Trump Administration to crack down on its competition.  Their lobbyists appear to be succeeding.  Gottlieb admits that the agency has not been enforcing its policiers on product makers but has suddenly decided to do so.

Notably, in July 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed in New York against Blue Diamond Growers and White Wave Foods for false advertising not because of the use of the term milk but the almond part. The challengers alleged that only two percent of the products are from almonds.  A judge however tossed the challenge.

The shift to “Strained Almond Pulp beverage” or some other market name does not seem appealing.

Few people confuse almond milk with cow milk. It has the consistency and appearance of milk.

It is time to call in vegan lawyers.  The Oxford dictionary defines the verb lactate as “of a woman or female mammal to produce milk.”

Does this mean if the almond milk producers use female employees they would meet the definition?

More importantly, Oxford defines milk as including such products as coconut milk.

Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:

a a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young
(1) milk from an animal and especially a cow used as food by people 

(2) a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow’s milk 

  • coconut milk
  • soy milk
2a liquid resembling milk in appearance: such as
a the latex of a plant
b the contents of an unripe kernel of grain

But, he admitted, curtailing the wording of non-moo juice labeling isn’t an easy task because it means that the agency has to change its “regulatory posture.”

So common parlance and forma dictionaries recognize non-lactated milk but the FDA will adopt this narrow definition? It speaks more of the power and manna of lobbyists in Washington than logic or the law.

What do you think?

67 thoughts on ““An Almond Doesn’t Lactate”: Feds Move To Block The Use Of “Milk” In Almond Milk”

  1. Actually, there already is a definition of what almond/soy/rice milk is. That would an extract. Almond milk is an extract not milk. This applies to rice and soy also. Maybe that name is not so appealing but that is what we should call the product…Almond/soy/rice extract. Calling it milk for sales purposes is misleading as best.

  2. “Does this mean if the almond milk producers use female employees they would meet the definition?” Too funny. I think they should leave it alone, regardless, I would still buy almond “milk.”

  3. As an almond milk consumer this sounds a lot to me like the early laws banning manufacturers from putting yellow coloring in margarine on the pretense that consumers would be “mislead”. Consumers are no more likely to confuse butter with margarine than the are to confuse almond milk with cow or goat milk. What would it even be called? Almond juice? This is simply more dairy industry protectionism illustrating their lobbying dollars at work.

    1. stepheng2010 – I was thinking we could call it almond slushy.

  4. Dictionaries document usage, not law or science. A lexicographer has to consider what people say is “milk”. I think Dr. Gottlieb is opening a squirming can of worms here.

    The vegan community will give the left-wing press considerable hearsay to pass on to their viewers about how the eeeevil Trump administration is “picking on” healthy milk-like beverages derived from healthy vegetable matter and even on a crusade to damage the American public’s health by making them drink things with toxic animal fat in them.

    A new culture clash is in the offing here. Both clashing parties seem to be centered in California, for once – I’ve seen new TV ads from the California dairy people talking about “going back to real milk”. This cannot be a coincidence. Meanwhile, Blue Diamond and other Big Almond outfits are also California-based. Making popcorn and watching the fun.

  5. I suggest Mr Gottlieb research the linguistics of nut milks. That term has been used for many years to describe white liquids. i.e. Milk of Magnesia. Coconut Milk. Almond Milk.

    We consumers do not require the government to protect us from the “false advertising” of coconut milk. It has been called so since Europeans learned about the coconut from Polynesians. We all get it that no lactation was involved.

    I agree with the farmers and consumers that this is a free speech issue. The government does not have the right to control our speech.

    The FDA’s job is to prevent anything like “Pure Country Milk” from being sold to unsuspecting customers. Apparently, milk has been a contentious issue for a while.


    1. Karen S – I can remember when oleomargarine (now margarine) was colorless because dairy producers would not allow it to compete with butter.

  6. On a more serious note, it is my understanding that almond milk was quite popular in Medival times. That combined with all the other milks, ie coconut milk, makes the word milk a bandaid for the milk industry.

  7. Well if Chocolate Milk = Brown Cows; then of course Almond Milk = Almond Cows. Right?

    In an era where identity is fluid, just claim the Almond identifies as a Cow. Makes as much sense.

    1. OLLY – I am sure this defense will hold up during the commenting period. 😉

  8. What about the ‘milk’ of human kindness? That milk seems to dry up in light of idiots like this, appointed by our Supreme Idiot, Donald Trump, the head oligarch bowing to the milk industry oligarchs. This should be called treason.

    1. Isaac,
      – Maybe Richard Painter, or someone like him, will pursue the “milk treason” charge.
      And if Trump is impeached, the “milk treason” will be one if the key articles of impeachment.
      Stay tuned.

  9. Growing almonds takes considerable water and then most are shipped to China. Are the Chinese going to put a tariff on almonds?

    1. David Benson owes me nine citations (one from the OED) and the source of a quotation, after two months, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – The Chinese can cut their own throat if they want to. Almonds keep.

      1. Paul C Schulte should take his own advice. I’ll not do it for such a lazy fool.

        1. David Benson owes me nine citations (one from the OED) and the source of a quotation, after two months, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – David, when am I going to get my citations? Hell, even JT quoted from the OED, if he can, you can. Talk about lazy, you are projecting again. Too lazy to walk up the hill to the library on campus to get the answer you have owed me for two months. As Vlad Putin would say, “The ball is in your court.”

  10. Did you hear about the cow that couldn’t produce any milk? She was an udder failure.

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