Dairy producers milking an opportunity
Use of the generic term ‘milk’ should not be allowed to be hijacked by influential business interests
Entrenched business interests in dairy milk and its value-added products are trying to usurp the commonly used word ’milk’ by asserting that milk should be mandated to mean ‘animal-derived milk’ and nothing else; and anything other than dairy milk should not be termed as milk.
This argument is rather strange and fallacious because the word milk has meaning well beyond mere dairy milk — that thick white liquid secreted from the udders of domesticated animals like cows and buffalos. If the use of the word milk is restricted to what is obtained from the udders of cows and buffalos, what would milk from the udders of goat, donkey and camel be called?
Goat milk continues to be popular in our country, having been Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite drink. Demand for donkey milk may be waning, but it has its special uses. What if a processed product from such currently less-popular sources were to hit the market? Will the product be allowed to use the term milk? How should it be categorised?
Plant-based milk has a long tradition in our country. While soy milk and almond milk may be of recent vintage, coconut milk has a very long tradition running to several centuries if not millennia. Many traditional foods are prepared with coconut milk as an ingredient.
Coconut milk, for instance, is not an imitation product. It is as original as cow milk, if anything. So, it would be tragic if use of the term milk is restricted to animal source.
Indeed, use of the generic term ‘milk’ should not be allowed to be hijacked by influential business interests.
A product that contains milk from any source (animal or plant) should mention the source itself. Ice-cream or chocolate from dairy milk should not be called ‘milk ice cream’ or ‘milk chocolate’. Rather it should be described as or called ‘dairy milk ice cream’ or ‘dairy milk chocolate’. Similarly, products using plant-based milk should be described by the origin of the milk.
The fight between ice cream manufacturers using dairy milk and those using vegetable oil is, of course, well known and has been going on for years. Ice cream using vegetable oil is called ‘frozen dessert’. Basically it is a fight for market share.
Without doubt, miscommunication regarding product and its ingredients should be prevented. Unambiguous or clear communication is the need of the hour. In this, sections of business cannot seek to hijack generic terms like milk and insist that it should be used restrictively (to suit their business interests).
The distinction between dairy-milk and non-dairy milk is necessary. The very debate about the use of the term milk demonstrates that the word lends itself to more than one interpretation as to the source. But it would be incorrect to assert that the word ‘milk’ should refer exclusively to ‘dairy milk’. Member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi’s anger is understandable.
FSSAI should also take into account additional problems that translation of the word milk or dairy milk or plant-based milk in regional languages is likely to pose. There is risk it can lead to deception.
Source : thehindu;businessline