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Poll: Should Milk Be A Reserved Term?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I previously blogged about how milk really does do your body good. I shared that I have been a big milk drinker my entire life as has my husband so it is no surprise that we go through more than five gallons a week for our family of four. Milk and milk alternatives are big business in the United States with three billion gallons of cow's milk, seventy million gallons of soymilk, and two million gallons of rice milk sold in 2009.

In 1996, soymilk producers asked the FDA to recognize soymilk as a "common and usual name" and to permit the use of the term milk for their non-diary beverages. In 2000, the National Milk Producers contacted the FDA in protest to the ongoing use of the term soymilk on products that were actually imitation dairy products. In both cases, the FDA did not respond and for the past decade, the term milk has been used related to soy-derived drinks. Additionally, the term has also become common with other plant-based beverage products such as rice, almond, and hemp as well as additional products like imitation cheese products from rice and faux yogurt from soy.

Now, the National Milk Producers Federation is once again requesting the FDA reserve the term milk for those products that come from animals like cows, goats, and sheep.

The FDA provides definitions and legal standards related to quality, processing, and composition known as Standards of Identity. According to Title 21 Section 131.110 of the Code of Federation Regulations , "milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrums, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows." Standards of Identity also clearly state that products labeled as cheese, yogurt, or ice cream is made from the milk of a cow. Because of these standards, other uses of the term for products processed from non-dairy sources are inaccurate.

Some plant-based beverages on the market are identified properly with labels such as "soy drink" or "rice beverage" and other plant-based foods with labeling terms such as "cultured soy" or "non-dairy frozen dessert." These labeling practices are not being questioned because they follow the Standards of Identity and do not include milk or dairy terms. However, with more and more plant-based products such as hemp, rice, and almonds being processed into imitation milks, the National Milk Producers Foundation is once again taking on the FDA to uphold their standards and enforce that those products include correct labeling. They do believe the standards should also include goats, sheep, and water buffalo in addition to cows. There is no interest by the Foundation to remove or limit the competition from dairy alternatives. However, since many times they are nutritionally inferior to milk from mammals, there is concern that the ongoing misbranding (as outlined by the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act) can be confusing.

So, what do you think? - should the use of the term milk be reserved for those products that come from mammalian lacteal secretions? Why or why not.

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Makes sense to me to leave "Milk" as a reserved term for animal secretions... although... my beef about the whole thing has more to do with distinguishing "milk" from commercially overprocessed overfed cattle dosed up with hormones and antibiotics, and not the pure stuff coming from a clean healthy farm with grass fed cattle not being fed chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, and not being pasteurized and homogenized. That's where the real turf war belongs. I can't drink the commerical milk any more. I do okay with moderate amounts of raw dairy. All the stink about getting sick from raw milk is more about cleanliness issues...

My story on all this is too long to fit, but after researching all over, I ended up basically curing my sinus issues and my advancing deafness by quitting drinking store-boughten cow milk that had been processed way beyond what mother nature intended. I switched to soy milk for awhile, probably two years or longer. I was apprehensive about trying it and what it would taste like, until someone told me to just think of it as "beverage" and then the taste wouldn't be upsetting (or I wouldn't be mentally trying to compare it to true raw cow's milk.). That worked for me. Eventually, after reading other materials and noticing how my body was reacting, I realized that being already obese, the soymilk was creating other situations not good for me (the phytoestrogens in soymilk are recognized by the body as estrogen, but fat creates a form of estrogen on its own - creating a hormone balance, too much estrogen not enough progesterone and testosterone which created a lot of other problems for me - there's plenty to research and you can always ask later if you have questions).

In any case, I am now drinking hemp mylk, almond mylk, and coconut mylk - did you see anything different? "Mylk" instead of "Milk"? I found this spelling used quite a bit in various vegan blogs from the UK - and that spelling works for me to help distinguish between animal milk and nut mylks. Why not try it that way??

Mylk - the Nuttier un-Milk??


Julia Report
I tend to lean toward the National Milk Producers Federation's stand. Soy, rice. almonds etc, although nutritious in themselves, can not possibly equate to milk in nutritional values. However, I do beleive that the labeling should include that these are milk substitutes since many may have digestive issues with milk and truly need an alternative. Without that information people may not know that these are fair substitutes. Report
I wouldnt have a problem as long as there is a big picture of a cow or a soy along with the word milk :D. I dont wanna waste my time going through the fine print! Report
I think the word "milk" should be reserved for those products that are mammalian lacteal secretions. Language should be precised, especially when describing things we ingest. Too many manufacturers steal terms from the real thing to give their products the cachet of the genuine article. I have nothing against soy, rice or almond beverages, but that's what they are beverages, not milk. Report
What about milk of magnesia ????? come on - aren't there bigger issues to worry about.

What about milkweed - do we change the name? Report
This is a very politically charged debate for sure. All I know is that I want to be able to tell exactly what I am buying, and since I honestly don't care for soymilk, I'd hate to have to read the fine print everytime I want some milk. I feel that milk and soymilk both have pretty devoted followings, so what difference would it make to rename soymilk "milk"??? Report
sitting here eating my GO Lean Kashi Cereal with my Low Fat Vanilla Silk that in fine print in the lower left of the container says "all natural soymilk". Not really interested in the difference. I know that since birth I have been violantly allergic to cow's milk and cow milk products. I can eat goat products but until recently those were hard to come by and growing up in WV Soy products were not all that plentiful either. Luckily I had an aunt with the same medical issue and she ordered products from a company in Washington state. I think the cow's milk companies are feeling the pinch now that soy has become more plentiful. They want to make sure they stake their marketing claim. They cannot get a patent so they want the name, almost a trademark issue here. None of my concern. I just don't want them harming the free market or my ability to actually eat healthy with as many choices as I am afforded today. Report
The milk lobby is CRAZY powerful. I hope they can't (basically) copyright the word milk. I can no longer participate in a milk coop that provided my family with raw milk because of ridiculous regulations. Report
I think it's getting nit-picky. It's not like anyone who drinks soy milk or rice milk or almond milk thinks it's really cow's milk - the same way that nobody who eats tofu bacon product actually think's it's anything like bacon. It' just isn't. I use vanilla soy milk in cereal and occasionally use plain soy milk to cook with because it is lower in calories, but I sure as heck know that it isn't really milk. Report
This is what I call nit picking! Since I was a kid my dad would buy us a coconut and put holes in it and drain what we always termed milk. So whats the big deal. Some time a plant or a tree will have a sap that looks milky because it is liquid and white. Again whats the big deal. Report
I drink whatever tastes pleasing to my tongue. If you wanted to call water something else, I'd probably not care, either.

This debate on what to call a beverage is a waste of taxpayer's money (because you KNOW, ultimately, who is footing the bill on this issue...and it ain't the cows!). People drink Soy and rice alternative beverages for a variety of reasons. One is to eliminate animal products from their diets, another is because of an allergy, the list goes on. Some kids won't drink a "substitute" but still need the calcium and other vitamins present in the beverage.

Leave it alone. The companies are making money and people are getting the products they want. many millions of dollars have been spend already on petitioning the FDA to allocate a simple, four-lettered word as "mammalian excretion only".

Good grief. Report
Um - and we care about this, why? Report
You would think the milk industry would be more concerned with the humane treatment of dairy cows and all that pus in the milk from breast infections. So if they want to get technical should they be made to list pus as a possible ingredient? Report
Yikes, this seems to be a pretty emotional topic. I am a vegetarian so guess what I drink. My concern is I want to know (or think I know) what I am putting in my body; I want to make an informed decision. I really don't care what you put in your body. Just buyer beware! And as most things are in life, in my opinion, there is a financial component to this debate. Report
I don't get what the fuss is all about. Most thinking adults know that soybeans do not have breasts! Most of us call Coffeemate a creamer . . . rather than being politically correct enough to say "non-dairy creamer." We call Velveeta "cheese" even though it is clearly something else (and quite mysterious, at that). And then there's "butter" which is really margarine . . . but no one says, "Well, I think I'll margarine my bread." Sounds like the entire dairy industry is non-specific! Report
The word "milk" has many other meanings and connotations than a secretion from cows. (to name but a few, "milk of human kindness," "milking it" as in using a chance happening to one's advantage longer than necessary, "Under Milkwood," a literary work, "milky substance," "land of milk and honey," etc.).

Also there are other kinds of milk from female mammals than milk from cows (to name a few, "goat's milk," "human milk" or "mothers' milk,"). Where do they fit in with the dairy industry's censorship plan?

Will there be thought police enforcing the use of a word on these products as well?

Conversely should it be illegal for say a chocolate manufacturer to market a coconut cream candy and call it one thing or another if it contains extracted coconut liquid but not cow cream? Is a coconut cream candy a dairy product, vegetable product?

How dare the dairy industry or anyone else try to own a common word or limit freedom of speech or thought.

Sorry, my second post on this, might be back lol. Report
I teach a nutrition class and the food groups are getting more and more fuzzy. Are beans a vegetable or a meat/protein group? Is soy milk from dairy group or the vegetable group or the meat/protein group? Soy beans aren't from animals so aren't meat and aren't from dairy animals so aren't dairy so is soy milk a vegetable? I think the term milk should be reserved for animal milk other products should be labeled as milk substitutes. Report
I don't think anyone who can read is confusing soy milk or rice milk with cow's milk. They are clearly labeled. Report
Even though soy "milk" is very good for everyone, I do agree that the term milk should be a product clearly derived from animals be they humans, cows, goats sheep etc Report
I thought about this, and it just makes sense to say 'soy beverage', or whatever. Milk is different, from animals. Report
The term "milk" also means "To press out, drain off, or remove by or as if by milking". Soy, almonds, rice, and the various other beverages are processed into liquids by pressing, draining, or removing. I say cow's milk is meant for infant cows - it has no benefit to humans that cannot be obtained through other sources, and in fact it can be harmful to humans. Casein, which is a protein found in milk, is also used in the production of cosmetics, paints and adhesives. Not something I'd want to drink! Anyone with doubts please google the autopsy results of Florence Griffith Joyner, an Olympic runner and one of milk's spokespersons. Report
Milk can also be used to describe an appearance or texture that's not dairy. The milk industry needs to accept that there is competition in the marketplace, and that cow's milk will always be a favorite to many people. Report
I say leave the term milk, as is. It's not like we don't know that these other "milks".soy, coconut, etc. are not from cows. We realize they are plant based. There are many things to be concerned about, and this doesn't seem to be very important. Report
I see no harm in calling drink made from soy, coconut, almonds or whatever being called milk. I grew up on a farm and we had cow's milk but now I am intolerant to dairy. Why change something that works. I know if I am drinking soy milk it is made from soy. Leave it alone. Report
Milk is milk, steak is is soy and tofu is tofu...I think the plants (soy, almond, rice, etc.) drinks need to be labeled as just allow otherwise will allow anything to be labeled as milk...even if it ends up being synthetic - with a bunch of names we can't pronounce...b/c they will be able to use the argument that it was allowed for the plant products, etc. I personally think we should champion for the clearest, most accurate labels we can get. Report
"However, since many times they are nutritionally inferior to milk from mammals, there is concern that the ongoing misbranding (as outlined by the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act) can be confusing."
you're kidding, right? i'd like to see where you got that information from. maybe do some actual research before posting something like that, mkay?

also, coconut milk, anyone? Report
Obviously the only reason this is even an issue is because of money. Does the National Milk Producers Federation really care about people being confused about nutrition content? No. They're concerned you'll be lead in to buying some other type of milk, and not their cow milk. Plant-Based milk is getting wildly popular (notice all of those silk adverts on TV?) and dairy producers don't want to lose a dime.

The word "Milk" does not belong to the dairy industry. Report
My belief is that milk should only be referred to as a mammal product and not a veggie product. Report
I agree, I think calling plant based products milk is misleading. Many think they get the same bone building nutrition from these items that they do from daily. Which isn't the case. They do have some nutrition but it is vastly different. Report
Milk is a term that would be from mammals. However , coconut, almond, soy and rice hav also used the term "milk" for many many years. Sadly our "wonderful government and USDA" and all the other "SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS" that our wonderful Democratic Society have allowed, we cannot use certain terminology without being politicaly correct. We should "JUST LEAVE IT AS IT IS"!!!! Report
I cannot use dairy products without stomach cramping. I use Rice Milk as an alternative for cereals.
I think adding "non-dairy" to the label for all "alternative" milk products would be adequate. I think calling the alternatives another name would be confusing as most people using them are looking for an alternative nut, coconut, rice or soy milk to replace dairy milk. If it was called "beverage" or "juice" I wouldn't connect it with the product I am looking to replace.
What a waste of time and money to even question. It does seem to be all about money or they would have objected to this term many decades ago. Report
To me, milk is fluid secreted from the mammary glands of animals such as goat, cow, sheep, etc. Coconut milk is a generally used common term for the liquid inside a coconut or made from coconut flesh; people who are using it refer to it is "coconut milk" not milk. Referring to a beverage made from soy, rice, nuts etc. in informal conversation is fine when you call it soymilk or whatever, but I don't think labelling should use the word "milk". They should be referred to as beverages. This results in less confusion for those who cannot tolerate true "milk" due to allergic, dietary intolerances, religious or cultural preferences.
There have also been some good points made about the nutritional differences between animal milk and plant/nut based beverages--calling them all "milk" implies that they are nutritionally indistinct from each other, which is not true.
But really, when it comes right down to it, why don't we all just let it go and get a real life? Report
The dairy industry is just trying to avoid losing more business to the "health food" industry. More people are turning to alternative milks these days, whether out of concern about growth hormones in dairy milk, or wanting a higher protein, low fat topping for cereal. I'm lactose intolerant and have to use Almond or rice milk for my milk needs. To everyone that is so intent on the purity of the term, I ask you: If cow's milk is the only milk you can accept as true "milk", what about coconut milk? that's been around for ages, with no problem... Report
Coconut milk has been called that for years and years and years too. Besides, they DO always specify soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk, and to the best of my knowledge, most people TRULY know that those are not animals! So it is just a lot of fuss about nothing, and will only cost the government, and companies, and therefore US, a lot of money to fight this and or relabel everything. Report
Milk should be restricted -- I as a 2 time breast cancer survivor, cannot drink soymilk as its a hormone receptor drug. Why subject more innocent women to the lethal lie that aoy products are good for them ! Report
I'm a simple guy from a simple family.

Milk has always been a term for the product obtained from cows, and goat's milk is obviously from goats.

I know that people also milk buffalo and water buffalo, but I'd call that water buffalo milk and buffalo milk.

I wouldn't want to buy something labeled "Milk" only to find out when I opened it that it was "Goat milk " instead.

If there needs to be "Truth in Advertising", label it "Cow's Milk".

"Much ado about nothing", just in general. Report
I don't think there are many people out there buying soy milk and believing that it's taking from a lactating soy animal. At this point in time, the term 'milk' can reasonably have as one of its definitions the type of liquids that we use for things like eating cereal and putting in our coffee. They should change the regulations to reflect the reality of what the term means now.

It's shameful that the dairy industry is wasting the FDA's time and money (which is OUR money, because the FDA is funded by taxpayers) on this when there are more important things they could be doing. Report
I agree with the dairy industry. Milk is a term that has been used for well over 100 years. Milk meant it came from an animal. Nobody even heard of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and whatever else someone wants to define as milk. In fact nobody ever sold it on the open market, let alone manufacture it until a few years ago.But, from a consumer standpoint I think the labeling should be correct. Send your kid to the store for milk they might bring the wrong one home because it said milk. It is what it is and a worthless debate. Report
I really don't see the big deal. Everyone knows that there is a difference between real milk and immitation milk, it really isn't as confusing as they are trying to imply it is. I mean, we are not that intellectually challenged as to think it is the same thing... and you will quickly taste the difference. I for one think it would be more confusing to call immitation milk products a 'rice beverage' etc. How would you know what it is supposed to be used for?

On the other hand I guess standards are standards.... but I for one have never walked through the isle at a supermarket and wondered: "Mmmm, this says soy milk, so I wonder if the plant grew breasts and they milked..." Report
I don't see why its a big deal to call the carton "soy juice". It isn't milk Report
In my ancient Webster's dictionary milk (noun) is defined as 1: fluid secreted by mammary glands of females, etc... 2: a liquid resembling milk in appearance such as the latex of a plant, the juice of a coconut, the contents of an unripe kernal of grain.
It seems to me that "2" covers non-dairy products such as soy milk. It also seems to me that the fight over labeling a product as milk is more about money than anything else. The word "milk" on a product suggests how the product might be used, as a replacement for cows milk. I do understand the farmers fighting to protect their product, but still, my vote is that they don't own the word "milk."
I'll buy soymilk instead of cows milk because cows milk upsets my stomach. Report
In my opinion, the whole arguement is nothing more than the dairy industry trying to get sole perrmission to be able to use the word MILK in its labeling. Then consumers will gravitate to ONLY the things that say milk, because MILK means cows, (animal) secretions. If someone didn't know about the plant-based products that, also, are just as qualified to be like animal milk, than all those people would only buy things that actually say MILK on them. Therefore the industry would have all those consumers ingnorant of the other choices that are out there and they would now have a monopoly on milk(animal) products with an unknowing group of people. Less competion, more money for them!!! This is how it was before alternatives were offered in this country. China and Japan have always had and drank soy -based white milk and called it that. That is how it came over here saying milk on it!!! Coconut milk, the same way from the tropical islands to here saying MILK on it and always having been called MILK in those nations. What is all the fuss about. No one ever tried to change the labeling or term of either coconut milk or soy milk till it became financial lucritive and they are probably loosing alot of money and customers who want something else that is healthier and sometimes, certainly cleaner. How do you think we started to get organic cow's milk??? To compete with no hormone laden, soy! Good for competion in the MILK_dairy industry!!! It all has to do with money, the bottom line, and keeping the public dumb to alternatives. In my book, the term MILK is a verb, not a noun. It's in the proccessing, not the result!! Anything whitish, liquid and goes through a squeezing, extracting proccess...IS MILK!!! Report
It's like calling margarine butter. It is used the same way but it's not the real thing, different product, different flavor. Cow's milk is the real thing, soy and all the other fake Milk type products should be called something else and not Milk. Report
I think they should specify where the “milk” came from. Some people are allergic to certain types of milk. Report
I can only echo comments 80 and 81 above, along with all the others who've commented on the absurdity in this situation. Report
To all you label readers out there who consume non milk "milks", the first listed ingrediengts for all is water. Most if not all also have sugar as an ingredient . Lactose is a sugar but is not a denatured product such as table sugar or high fructose corn syurp.

The point of the suit is to simply have the FDA adhere to their regulations as written or to change them. It is not about semantics, misleading advertising or a profit motive it is simply to follow the rules as written.

I drink kefir which I make from milk however you can also make what is called water kefir and the latter is marked as such since kefir is a milk based product.

Words have meanings and to assign different values to them to suit a bias is a bit untoward in my opinion. Report
"Milk" comes from lactating animals. A drinkable, manufactured, highly processed beverage can be made from many sources, soy, almonds, etc. They should be clearly labeled as such and not called "milk". Report
I personally think it would make my shopping experience easier if milk only referred to animal products.

I think that the companies who make plant-based alternatives are doing a disservice to those who are avoiding animal-based foods by giving their food a name that is associated with animals. Report
I drink soymilk, but cook with 2% milk and if I run out of soymilk I do drink the 2% as well. I live with people (family) that drink 2% milk and the food is common. If cooking for myself I use soy when appropriate and milk when cooking for the family. When I first made this switch there was a lot of controversy within my family about whether it was healthy for me to have switched to soy milk after drinking milk my entire life. I do think it is an individual thing though, some people can drink milk fine. After I reached a certain age I began having certain digestive problems and although it wasn't an allergy, they dissapeared when I made the switch to soy. Report
I don’t care. I used to drink cow’s milk I liked it then. Now I prefer soy milk. Report
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