What, It’s Not Milk?

A federal class action accusing makers of plant-based drinks such as soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk of mislabeling their products by calling them “milk” has gone down the drain.

U.S. District Judge Sam Conti dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month.

The plaintiffs alleged several forms of mislabeling, including the use of EJC when it is nothing more than sugar, or dried cane syrup.  In addition, the suit said the Food and Drug Administration defines milk as something from lactating cows, not soy, almonds or coconuts.

A separate, nearly identical food-labeling class action was filed in Southern Florida federal court, including the same product, the Silk brand milk products.  In that case the class reached a settlement, approved by the court in April. The plaintiffs in the California case before Conti tried to intervene and object to the Florida settlement but were rejected in October.

Conti ruled December 10 that the milk claims were either preempted or implausible.

As for calling soy, almond or coconut-based products “milk,” Conti said the federal regulation “pertains to what milk is, rather than what it is not, and makes no mention of non-dairy alternatives such as the Silk Products.”

“The names ‘soymilk,’ ‘almond milk’ and ‘cocoanut milk’ accurately describe the defendants’ products,” he said.

“It is simply implausible that a reasonable consumer would mistake a product like soymilk or almond milk with dairy milk from a cow,” he said.

Conti dismissed the case.

Case:  Ang v. Whitewave Foods Co., No. 13-1953


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