The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) recently petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to stop producers of nondairy food from using terms like “milk,” “cheese,” “yogurt,” and “ice cream” on their labels.

“The traditional retail dairy case has become a chaotic center of misbranded products and false and misleading labeling,” according to the petition. “This expansion in the number of falsely-labeled products has now reached epidemic proportions and an ‘anything goes’ attitude now pervades the marketplace, making a mockery of existing federal food standard and labeling regulations for dairy products.”

Using terms like “milk” and “sour cream” on labels for nondairy products confuses consumers and FDA regulations, which define milk products, the petition argues.

The NMPF included a list of hundreds of products it claims are mislabeled in a variety of ways.

The most common example: a product that uses the word “milk” as part of its standardized food name, such as “soymilk,” even though the product does not meet the legal standard of identity for standardized dairy products, the petition states.

The NMPF argues that any product that does not meet the standard of identity for milk as defined by the FDA should not be permitted to use the term “milk” in its labeling.

The petition also references “misbranded, nondairy, plant-based beverages and powders” labeled as milk products.

Products such as “almond milk” are not dairy milk flavored with almonds, but food substances ground and filtered to remove solids, and the resulting liquid should not be labeled as a milk product, the petition argues.

Nondairy products marketed as an alternative but that use a dairy name – such as “sour cream alternative” – are also deceptive, according to the petition.

To read the petition, click here.

Why it matters: Although the NMPF cited recent warning letters sent by the FDA to producers of dairy-free products cautioning them about mislabeling products, the petition requests that the agency “significantly” increase its enforcement efforts. It also suggests that nondairy beverages and products should be renamed to more accurately reflect their contents as “drinks,” “beverages,” or “imitation milk.”