This is an excerpt reprinted with permission from The Hagstrom Report, a news service providing original national and international agricultural news to its subscribers.

SILVER SPRING, Md. – Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday the FDA will not change the definition of milk or how it enforces that definition without “a deliberate process” that would probably allow rulemaking.

In response to a question from The Hagstrom Report about whether FDA has plans to act on the conflict between the dairy industry and plant-based foods industry over the definition and FDA’s lack of enforcement of its current definition, Gottlieb said, “It’s true” that the FDA definition of milk says it has to come from “a lactating animal,” but he also acknowledged that the FDA has allowed the use of the word “milk” with plant-based products such as soybeans and almonds for years.

“We can’t just arbitrarily change what will be allowed in the marketplace,” Gottlieb said, adding FDA is considering rewriting all of its “standards of identity” for food products.

The National Milk Producers Federation has called on the FDA to be strict about the definition, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and others have introduced the Dairy Pride Act, which would force FDA to enforce the definition and “defend against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese.”

The Good Food Institute, which represents plant-based food makers, has also submitted a petition to the agency, asking it to issue a rule “to clarify that food producers may label and name their new products in a clear, commonsense manner consistent with consumer expectations, with the law applied fairly and equally to each.”

The Hagstrom Report made the inquiry at a media availability after Gottlieb and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue held a town hall with FDA employees in Silver Spring, Md.

The Hagstrom Report covers Congressional hearings, markups and press conferences in Washington D.C., as well as national nutrition news and farm meetings throughout the United States. Subscribers to The Hagstrom Report receive a digital newsletter daily while Congress is in session and at other times as events require and news happens.