New York – Do people understand the differences between milk and soy and rice “milk”?

That’s what the Food and Drug Administration is asking as it considers whether soy and other non-dairy products can keep calling themselves “milk.” Right now, federal standards define milk as coming from a cow.

The call for comments, being published Thursday, comes after FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb signaled in July the agency might start going after nondairy drinks that call themselves milk. The dairy industry for years has called for just such a crackdown.

Milk is one of a range of foods that have federal standards, which are supposed to ensure the quality of products on supermarket shelves.

Some makers of plant-based drinks say the standards are outdated and are used to fend off competition.

The National Milk Producers Federation wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in October 2017 calling on him to enforce what’s known as a “standard of identity.” The FDA maintains standards of identity for many food products. The one for milk reads, in part: “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Colostrum is the milk cows produce after giving birth.

In addition to milk, the FDA is taking on lab-grown meat that relies on animal cells to produce beef, poultry and seafood.

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