WASHINGTON – The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) wants plant-based milk products to come with clarity for consumers about how the nutritional qualities of those products differ from dairy milk. However, it doesn’t think the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) draft guidance on the matter adequately addresses the concern that some consumers think those alternative milks are healthier than dairy milk.

IDFA shared that it submitted its official comments to the FDA on Aug. 1, in response to the FDA’s previous recommendation that plant-based milks feature nutrient labels.

IDFA stated it supports the FDA’s position that consumers need labels on products such as soy and almond milks to make it simple to discover that the products are different from dairy milk.

Roberta Wagner, IDFA’s senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, noted the association has been advocating for years for the FDA to “issue industry guidance that aligns with its standards that foods must be labeled in a truthful and non-misleading way.”

Wagner said IDFA thinks the FDA proposal to include a list of nutrients on the front of containers for plant-based milk alternatives “is insufficient as a solution and onerous for consumers.”

“For example, stating how nutrients differ from those found in milk in the manner proposed by the FDA would make it difficult for consumers to do side-by-side comparisons of nutrients in non-dairy beverages and milk and may further confuse consumers,” Wagner said. “Consumers should not need an advanced college degree in nutrition to make purchasing decisions.”

Instead, IDFA recommended that FDA “include a simple declarative statement about the nutritional difference between milk and plant-based milk alternatives.” Additionally, IDFA wants the FDA to “encourage consumers to use the nutrition information on the existing nutrition facts panel of non-dairy beverages to make purchasing decisions that are right for themselves and their families.”

Within the comments IDFA submitted regarding the FDA’s proposed voluntary nutrient statements for plant-based milks, IDFA recommended a concise disclaimer and said FDA should “continue and even enhance efforts to educate consumers” on the nutrition facts panel typically found on the back of food and beverage packaging. IDFA also said the draft guidance doesn’t consider the bioavailability of the nutrients in milk compared to plant-based milk alternatives.

Additionally, IDFA said under the FDA’s proposed approach, the list of nutrients should only include those on the nutrition facts panel and Vitamin A.

Complete comments from IDFA can be found online via the association’s website.