The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has submitted a citizen petition urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “[e]nforce existing ‘imitation’ labeling requirements against nutritionally inferior non-dairy substitutes for standardized dairy foods that are named and positioned as forms of ‘milk,’ ‘yogurt,’ ‘cheese,’ ‘ice cream,’ or ‘butter,’ yet fail to provide the ‘imitation’ disclosure statement that is required.”

The petition’s introductory letter argues that its recommended actions “are necessary to ensure that consumers are adequately informed concerning the material differences between standardized dairy foods (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, butter) and the wide variety of non-dairy substitutes that are available in the marketplace which are identified through the misappropriation of terms that have been defined by standards of identity to identify standardized foods that meet specified compositional, nutritional, or functional requirements.”

The debate over dairy and non-dairy substitute labeling extends to Canada, where a creamery has reportedly been told to stop referring to its “plant-based, dairy-free” product as cheese. In an Instagram post, Blue Heron Creamery announced that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned that it cannot refer to its product as cheese “even if we identify it as plantbased, vegan, dairy free, use a hyphen or otherwise distinguish it from dairy.” In place of “cheese,” the company used the cheese emoji.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.