Lactose incontinent: Dairy industry claims “milk” is exclusively their word

Don't forget the cream!

Some relevance-seekers at a NSW dairy lobby group called Dairy Connect have decided that consumers are "confused" by all the non-dairy applications of the word "milk" and such supposedly misleading marketing should be banned. Consumers need to be able to make an "informed decision". My brain hurts just trying to imagine the conversations, presumably behind closed doors (and perhaps with padded walls and straitjackets), that led to this silliness.

Here's an interesting chart of the frequency of use of various milky words since 1700 in books indexed by Google (via their Ngram Viewer).

The term soy milk has been in use in English since the early 1900s, but has shown a lot of growth since about 1970.

The term coconut milk has been in use in English since the early 1900s.

It seems that, a bit like the loopy and unoriginal Australian alt-right, the Dairy Connect people took their lead from an equally silly lobbying activity in the US.

In fact, so unoriginal are they, that they couldn't even illustrate their media release with a picture of Australian dairy (or non-dairy) products, instead using a picture of  American supermarket products!

Screenshot of Dairy Connect's silliness

Now look at the term almond milk. Gosh those lobbyists are late to the party about that little bugbear. Seen in print since the 1700s (which often means people were saying it quite a while earlier).

Interestingly, too, the general frequency of the broader range of naughty-milk terms has barely increased in recent years, and in the case of soy and coconut milk has actually declined slightly.

Now, if you're feeling pedantic, you could argue that word use doesn't necessarily reflect consumption of these products, and nor does it reflect all permutations of these words (though variants like soymilk are much less common than soy milk). But the lobbyists are in fact purporting to be worried about consumers getting confused. Apart from being a laughably patronising proposition, it's clear that any "confusion" would have been around for quite a long time now.

They should just focus on nutritional differences if they want to be taken seriously.

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