Federal rules, which have largely gone unenforced, define the mom-pleasing, bone-building milk as coming from the "milking of one or more healthy cows".
The National Milk Producers Federation said it welcomes Mr Gottlieb's recognition that the labelling practices of many "plant-based dairy imitators" violate federal standards.
"The answer is probably not". "How many tomatoes do you need to actually call something 'ketchup".
Gottlieb told the event: "An almond doesn't lactate, I will confess", referring to almond milk and the FDA standards for milk that reference products from lactating animals. Since it plans to take a different approach to enforcement, he said the FDA will have to first develop guidance notifying companies of the change and ask for public comment.
As reported by Politico, Gottlieb told the Politico Pro Summit the agency will soon issue a guidance document outlining changes to its so-called standards of identity policies for marketing milk, a perceived win for the USA dairy industry.
In the USA, standards of identity have been the source of industry spats as diets have evolved, including fights about what gets to be called mayonnaise and yogurt. Recent fights include battles over the definitions of mayonnaise and yogurt - and futuristic science that could allow meat to be grown by culturing cells.
The Good Food Institute, which advocates for plant-based alternatives, says the term "milk" should be permitted with modifiers for nondairy drinks.
The dairy industry, in an economic downfall, has petitioned the FDA to enforce those standards, but the agency had yet to address the issue.