Hemp Milk Vs. Dairy Pride

Hemp seed milk
Image: BigStock

The hemp foods sector is facing another battle in the USA; this time in relation to the use of the word “milk”. It seems the dairy industry isn’t happy.

Hemp foods are generally doing well with consumers. A report published last year forecast the hemp-based foods market globally will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.3% between 2016 and 2020.

Hemp milk, or hemp seed milk, is made from hemp seeds soaked and ground in water, which results in a milky type liquid with a nutty/creamy flavour. It has become quite a popular drink, particularly among those looking to avoid the dairy version.

Hemp milk is also highly nutritious. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, all ten essential amino acids, protein, calcium and various vitamins – and it’s free of cholesterol.

It’s one of the many plant-based drinks that have been widely known as “milks” for a long time – there’s soy, almond, rice, coconut, cashew – and the list goes on.

Or it may not (in the USA anyway) if new legislation is passed.

“Imitation products have gotten away with using dairy’s good name for their own benefit, which is against the law and must be enforced,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “Mislabeling of plant-based products as ‘milk’ hurts our dairy farmers.”

Senator Baldwin introduced legislation a couple of days ago with the lengthy title of “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.

The DAIRY PRIDE Act is quite an acronym and it also poses a quite serious threat.

If passed, the DAIRY PRIDE Act would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of “mislabeled imitation dairy products”. This would mean companies that have spent a bundle on packaging and marketing their hemp drinks as milk will have to cease and desist.

However, what is milk? Let’s refer to a dictionary.

While the Merriam-Webster dictionary says milk is from an animal; it also states it is “a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow’s milk.”

If hemp milk companies were to call their product “cow’s milk”, then the dairy industry would be well within its rights to be miffed – but they don’t.

Senator Baldwin states “mislabeled alternative products” contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that are often not equivalent to the nutrition content of dairy products.

The interesting thing about hemp milk is that it is arguably superior to cow’s milk in some aspects.

With the word “milk” so widely applied and understood, some might say this legislation is shutting the gate after the horse (or cow) has well and truly bolted, but the threat shouldn’t be disregarded – much stranger legislation has been passed in the USA previously.