Key Issues

Imitation Dairy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is required by Congress to enact standards of identity to prevent false and misleading food labeling, which protects consumers and public health. These standards prevent deception and provide information that protects consumers from uninformed consumption of diluted or nutritionally inferior foods.

Non-dairy substitutes have existed for generations, but in recent years, non-dairy foods formulated and labeled to substitute for and resemble standardized dairy products increasingly have flouted established rules by labeling and marketing themselves as nutritionally equivalent, or even superior, substitutes – despite being almost uniformly nutritionally inferior to their dairy counterparts. FDA has done nothing.

That failure to enforce existing regulations and policies against non-dairy substitutes has led to a disarray of products posing as something they are not. NMPF asks FDA to enforce its own rules and ensure transparent labeling that protects consumers.

Our Position

Dairy farmers take great pride in their high-quality, nutritious dairy products and have spent many decades building consumer confidence in them. Imitations should not be allowed to unfairly capitalize on these associations, especially in ways that encourage inadequate nutrition and consumer confusion.

NMPF supports actions that stop the continued proliferation and marketing of mislabeled non-dairy substitutes for standardized dairy foods misrepresented as “milk,” “cheese,” “butter,” “yogurt,” “ice cream,” or other dairy foods.

NMPF also supports the bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act, which directs FDA to follow its own rules and establish an agency approach for the enforcement of existing dairy standards of identity, as a prod to FDA to do its job.

Key Points

  • Consumers know that dairy products provide key nutrients necessary for healthy child development and for adult health. Dairy packs in 13 essential nutrients, and according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 88 percent of Americans have insufficient dairy in their diets.
  • Consumers are being misled about the nutritional content of plant-based imitators relative to real dairy products, creating marketplace confusion and inappropriately blurring well-defined standards of identity.
  • Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the School Nutrition Association have voiced their concern about the lack of labeling integrity among marketers of non-dairy substitutes after observing child malnourishment caused by reliance on plant-based imitators by parents who mistakenly thought that they were getting dairy’s unique nutrient package. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also cautions against plant-based substitution, noting that most plant-based beverages lack nutritional equivalence.
  • Clear, accurate labeling is a fundamental matter of truth and transparency for consumers, well within First Amendment practices governing commercial speech. FDA must reassert well-established standards of identity to guide all actors in the marketplace.

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