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When Should Something Be Called a 'Milk'?

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When Should Something Be Called a 'Milk'?
Photo Amazing Almonds / Flickr

Where are the teats on a nut and how does one really milk a bean? These are the sort of deep questions I've found myself pondering since the new 'if-it-blends-we-can-milk-it" phenomenon splashed onto the scenes.

I've examined almonds more intimately than most and I can confirm, unless I'm missing something pretty obvious (and it wouldn't be the first time), that there is no udder in sight, not even a tiny little one underneath. Coconuts, soy, almonds, also, no discernible points for milking. So, why do we call liquids produced from these ingredients 'milk'?

It's been a personal pet peeve of mine for a few years now and it seems I'm not the only person to worry about it. In fact, a group of legislators and farmers in the US have teamed together to call on the FDA to define stronger guidelines on what can and can't call itself milk.

For the legislators, it's pretty simple, something should only be called milk if it displays “a clear standard of identity defined as ‘the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.’"

The dictionary goes a few steps further, with "an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young." 

A letter signed by 25 legislators was pushed forward to the FDA at the end of December - it can be read in full here.

Speaking about the letter, Pierre Chandon, who specialises in food labeling, told Outside Online: “The goal of these regulations is to protect real milk. If you don’t draw a line and say that milk is only for dairy products, then you wouldn’t be able to forbid future usage, like, I don’t know, ‘vodka milk.’”

Vodka milk certainly seems like it could be fun but if we continue with a haphazard approach to labelling - there's no telling how far it might go. Can't we just go back to calling a spade a spade and all enjoy a nice class of almond juice?

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