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But 75 percent aren't confused by plant-based milk products in the supermarket, despite recent measures proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Zee Krstic
October 17, 2018

Earlier this year, Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, persuaded the Food and Drug Administration to consider implementing new legislation forbidding plant-based milk manufacturers from using the term "milk" on their products. Her initial argument hinged on the fact that the federal definition of milk did not include alternative varieties, including almond, soy, and coconut milks, and that labeling these beverages as "milks" could actually confuse shoppers in the dairy aisle.

Per the most recent reports from the Associated Press, the FDA is gearing up to start enforcing the use of the term "milk" on all forms of plant-based milk alternatives currently available in supermarkets—but how many Americans are actually confused when it comes to shopping for milk? According to a new survey, it appears that nine percent of us believe soy and almond milk contain real dairy.

More than 1,000 adults living in the United States were polled by the Lincoln Park Strategies team on behalf of the International Food Information Council in August of this year, according to a Food Navigator report. The survey, which was sponsored by dairy conglomerate Danone North America, asked these adults if they believed dairy was used in the making of almond, soy, coconut, rice, and cashew milks.

Responses varied per category, but 9 percent of respondents said they believed dairy milk was found within almond and soy milk—and 16 percent said they were unsure. (If you're reading this and wondering for yourself, there should be zero dairy found in plant-based milks.)

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But a more important statistic for the FDA to consider is the fact that upwards of 70 percent of respondents said they were aware that plant-based milks were free of dairy across all categories—75 percent of those asked about almond and soy milk knew that these are not made with real milk.

More information on milk alternatives in your supermarket:

And what about confusion about dairy products themselves? The survey revealed that consumers are more confused about skim milk, for example, with 26 percent of shoppers unsure if there's actual milk in this bottled product (there is). 15 percent of respondents also weren't clear on whether chocolate milk actually contained real cow's milk or not (it does).

The dairy industry has spent nearly $3 million dollars lobbying the FDA to create new regulation preventing plant-based products from being labeled "milk" (or yogurt or cheese, for that matter), CNBC reports. The FDA maintains that it can't arbitrarily change regulations without prior warnings or precedence, but this survey suggests that the dairy industry's most apparent problem might be educating consumers.