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October 11, 2019

Dean Foods quits US dairy body over stance on plant-based ‘milk’

US dairy group Dean Foods has become embroiled in a row over the labelling of products from dairy alternative providers.

By Leonie Barrie

US dairy group Dean Foods has quit an industry body in a row over the labelling of products from dairy alternative providers.

Dean Foods is against plant-based products using dairy terms but is unhappy that the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) has been “unable to reach a consensus” on the issue.

In a statement, the Dallas, Texas-based business – the largest milk producer in the US – said it has decided to leave the IDFA after being a “strong supporter” of it for many years because it had “reached a point where one of our key priorities is no longer shared by the entire IDFA organisation”.

It went on: “As one of the largest dairy processors in the country, we are proud of the role we play in providing one of the most nutritious products in the grocery store – milk – to consumers around the nation. With this in mind, we believe it is wrong that many plant-based products are currently marketed using milk’s good name yet are lacking several of the inherent nutrients of their dairy counterparts. Unfortunately, IDFA has been unable to reach consensus and take a stance on this important issue.”

Dean Foods said that it has decided it can no longer financially support an organisation that is “not behind one of our core priorities”.

It added: “We’ll instead divert our advocacy resources to pursuing accurate product labelling for the benefit of the dairy industry, including farmers, processors and consumers around the country.”

Dean Foods is one of a number of US dairy companies to complain about the labelling on plant-based, milk-alternative products. They are unhappy that, in their opinion, the providers of such products are claiming they are nutritionally equivalent to milk.

The difficulty for the IDFA in taking a rigid stance on the issue is that some of its members sell non-dairy beverages.

Dean Foods itself owns a majority stake in Colorado-based Good Karma Foods, which sells non-dairy ‘milk’ and ‘yogurt’ and labels its products with traditional dairy terms.

Responding to Dean Foods’ departure from the organisation, a spokesperson for the IDFA told just-food: “Dean Foods has been an important member of IDFA and we wish them well. Departures from IDFA are very rare. More than 30 companies joined as members in 2019 alone thanks to a more inclusive association that represents and engages all segments of the growing dairy industry, from milk, yogurt and ice cream to cheese and dairy-derived ingredients. IDFA is proud to advocate on behalf of America’s dairy companies.”

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