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 Dairy farmers want US regulators to Banish the term “soy milk” : But Why?

The sour history over who gets to use “milk” reaches back to at least 1997, when a soy foods group petitioned the FDA to recognize the term “soymilk"

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A photo shows the ingredients label for soy milk at a grocery store in New York, Feb. 16, 2017. The dairy industry says terms like “soy milk” violate the federal standard for milk, but even government agencies have internally clashed over the proper term.VOA
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture “fervently” wanted to use the term “soy milk” in educational materials for the public
  • That irked the Food and Drug Administration, the agency that oversees the rule defining milk as coming from healthy cows
  • The sour history over who gets to use “milk” reaches back to at least 1997, when a soy foods group petitioned the FDA to recognize the term “soymilk”

New York, July 4, 2017: Dairy farmers want U.S. regulators to banish the term “soy milk,” but documents show even government agencies haven’t always agreed on what to call such drinks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture “fervently” wanted to use the term “soy milk” in educational materials for the public, according to emails recently released in response to a lawsuit. That irked the Food and Drug Administration, the agency that oversees the rule defining milk as coming from healthy cows.

It’s “not a trivial decision,” the FDA warned in one of the 2011 emails about the USDA’s desire to use the term.

The sour history over who gets to use “milk” reaches back to at least 1997, when a soy foods group petitioned the FDA to recognize the term “soymilk”. A couple of years later, the group pointed out that the FDA itself had used the term. Even now, the National Milk Producers Federation says it’s working to build support for legislation directing the FDA to enforce the federal standard. The dairy group says both “soy milk” and “soymilk” are inappropriate ways to describe non-dairy drinks made from soybeans, and that the one-word version is just an attempt to get around the definition.

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There are plenty of other food names at issue. A European Union court recently ruled that a company named TofuTown can’t describe its products as “cheese.” U.S. rice producers have railed against “pretenders ” like diced cauliflower and said they may take the issue to the FDA.

But the FDA hasn’t even always been able to get other agencies to go along, as illustrated in the emails obtained by the Good Food Institute, which advocates alternatives to industrial animal agriculture. The GFI sued the FDA for public records relating to soy milk.

The email exchange started when a nutrition adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services alerted the FDA that the USDA planned to use “soy milk” in educational materials about dietary guidelines.

“USDA staff are preparing consumer publications and fervently want to use the term ‘soy milk’ because beverages are widely marketed this way,” the adviser wrote.

The FDA bristled and provided the federal definition of milk as a “lacteal secretion” from cows. Therefore, the FDA declared that referring to soy, almond and rice drinks as “milk” would be incorrect. It suggested the other agency say “beverage” or “fortified beverage.”

When that didn’t put the matter to rest, the FDA warned that the USDA’s use of the term could undermine the FDA’s regulatory authority.

That apparently didn’t stop the USDA, either.

“They are adamant about using the term in consumer publications,” the nutrition adviser wrote. The USDA had indicated that it would use “soy beverage” in official policy documents, but it wanted to use “plain language” in materials for the public.

Despite the federal regulation, others may also consider “soy milk” an acceptable term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary doesn’t limit milk’s definition to cows, saying it is “a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young.”

It also allows for a “food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow’s milk.”

Asked how the spat was resolved, the USDA provided materials from 2011 that use both terms by referring to “soymilk (soy beverage).” The agency also uses the term elsewhere, including on its “Choose My Plate” website, which currently says “calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage)” is part of the dairy group.

The National Milk Producers Federation says the USDA’s usage of the term shows even other government agencies are confused about how to describe soy beverages in the absence of consistent enforcement by the FDA.

The FDA declined to comment. (VOA)

Next Story

FDA Approves Device to Treat Heart Failure Patients

The health body has granted approval of the Optimizer Smart system to US-based Impulse Dynamics

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The US Food and Drug Administration has given approval for a new device that would help treat patients with life-threatening heart failure, and address an unmet need in patients who fail to get adequate benefits from standard treatments and have no alternative treatment options.

The Optimizer Smart system is comprised of several components, including an implantable pulse generator, battery charger, programmer and software. The pulse generator is implanted under the skin in the upper left or right area of the chest and connected to three leads that are implanted in the heart.

After the device is implanted, a physician tests and programmes the device, which delivers electrical impulses to the heart during regular heartbeats to help improve the heart’s squeezing capability.

The device would be beneficial for patients not suited to treatment with other heart failure devices such as cardiac resynchronisation therapy to restore a normal timing pattern of the heartbeat, the US FDA noted in a statement.

“Patients with moderate-to-severe chronic heart failure have limited treatment options. And for those who are unable to be treated due to underlying conditions or who have not responded to available treatments, their quality of life may be impacted, with limits on the types of physical activities they can do,” said Bram Zuckerman, Director at FDA’s Centre for Devices and Radiological Health.

Photo Credit: www.medscape.com

“The FDA recognised the unmet need for these patients and worked with the manufacturer…to efficiently bring this product to market, while ensuring it meets our regulatory requirements for safety and effectiveness,” Zuckerman added.

For the study, the US FDA evaluated data from two clinical trials with a total of 389 patients with moderate-to-severe heart failure.

All patients received optimal medical therapy and 191 patients also received an Optimizer Smart system implant.

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The Optimizer Smart system improves quality of life and functional status of certain heart failure patients.

The health body has granted approval of the Optimizer Smart system to US-based Impulse Dynamics. (IANS)