What is the legal definition of milk?

November 30, 2018 - 3:30 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Got milk? The FDA's not so sure. 

Ron Swanson, the surly anti-government director of the Parks and Recreation Department on the TV show "Parks and Rec" said, "There is only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that's lying about being milk."

The government thinks he may be onto something — at least when it comes to plant-based products that call themselves milk, like soy milk or almond milk.

Under federal law, standards of identity for food are mandatory requirements set by, in this case, the Food and Drug Administration, to determine what a food product must contain to be marketed under a certain name. The FDA has proposed a rule that would effectively prohibit the word "milk" on a label unless the product inside was a "lacteal secretion ... obtained by the complete milking of one or more cows." 


Do we really need the FDA to remind us that milk comes from lactating cows? Or that almonds don't lactate? The FDA will first need to develop standards before prohibiting the use of the word "milk" unless it's from a cow, but as Ron Swanson also said when someone dropped by his desk and asked if she was interrupting anything important, he answered, "Impossible. I work for the government."