Non-dairy product may not be allowed 'milk' tag

Non-dairy product may not be allowed 'milk' tag

Almond milk

Since our childhood days, most of us have grown up drinking the elixir of life — milk. When we were born, it was our mother’s milk, and then we switched to cow’s milk as we grew up. While cow’s milk is palatable for most, there is a growing number of people who do not prefer it for various reasons. For some, lactose, the sugar molecule in milk, is not easily digested in their body and hence, they are intolerant to it. A few may have other conditions like Crohn’s disease or bowel disorders that prevent digestion of dairy products. Others avoid milk and dairy products as a lifestyle choice.

In recent years, supermarket aisles have stocked up cartons of plant ‘milk’—almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, oat milk and the likes. As the name suggests, the ‘milk’ or juice is derived from a variety of grains, seeds or legumes. In comparison with cow’s milk, plant ‘milk’ products have fewer calories and sugar content. Most of them are fortified with micronutrients to make them nutritious. Although it may seem like a recent food fad, people from South Asia have been familiar with one such plant-based milk for centuries—the coconut milk. It is widely used in curries and other culinary delicacies. In Japan and Mexico, rice milk is consumed as a beverage; sometimes in its fermented form. 

Since plant ‘milk’ products are synthetically extracted and contain no lactose, how justified is the use of the term ‘milk’ in labelling them? That’s been a bone of contention in recent years. In 2013, the European Union banned the use of ‘milk’ on products that were not animal-derived. A month ago, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India proposed a similar ban on the use of the word ‘milk’ for non-animal derived dairy products. While those in favour of plant milk have opposed this move, the jury in India is not yet out. “What’s in a name,” asked Shakespeare. For food regulatory authorities, there seems to be much of an itch!