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REAL® U.S. Dairy Products Versus the Imitators

These days, imitation dairy products are showing up more frequently in the dairy case. Made from vegetables, weeds, seeds, or nuts, these imitators are packaged like real dairy products, and the words “milk” or “dairy” often appear in their names. But they’re not the real thing.


Take frozen desserts. An increasing number are made from soybeans rather than milk. But the packaging makes them look like ice cream, and pictures reinforce the false impression. The only way a consumer knows the product isn’t ice cream is by reading the ingredient label. The same is true for many other foods made with imitation dairy products.


Only a few processed foods use the REAL® Seal right now. But that will be changing soon. The National Milk Producers Federation is tailoring the Seal to additional products and applications. Specific product names, along with terms like “made with” and “American made,” will be combined with the Seal to indicate products that contain genuine, U.S.-made dairy products.


When the REAL® Seal is on the package, you can be confident you are getting a genuine dairy product that starts with milk from cows on U.S. dairy farms. The REAL® Seal guarantees:


  • The product was produced in the United States.
  • The product meets strict federal standards for milk and dairy products.
  • The product contains no casein, caseinate, vegetable oil, non-domestic dairy protein or ingredient, or any cheese substitute or cheese analog.

Look for the REAL® Seal to avoid confusion. It guarantees you are purchasing a genuine U.S.-made dairy product.


When the Imitators Go Too Far


Under federal law, milk, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, and cheese must be made with milk from cows. But some items in grocery stores use the terms “milk,” “yogurt,” and “dairy,” even though they’re made from plants and nuts. They pretend to be natural dairy products when they’re not.


One way to avoid confusion is to look for the REAL® Seal. When the REAL® Seal is on the package, you can be sure you are getting a genuine, U.S.-made natural dairy product.


The dairy industry has asked the Food and Drug Administration to halt this misuse of dairy terminology on imitation foods. It’s not that these products shouldn’t be available. But putting a white fluid in a package similar to milk carton, with images showing uses for it just like milk, and including the word “milk” in the product’s name can make consumers think the product is nutritionally the same as milk. Chances are it’s not.


Product names should be informative, not deceptive. These products should be renamed so that consumers can easily understand the difference between real dairy products and imitations.