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Dairy Product Labeling Can Be Confusing

Dairy Product Labeling Can Be Confusing
You don't know what you're getting unless you read the label, and then you're not sure!

The Indiana state 40H and FFA dairy foods judging contest was held recently. Congratulations to Rushville FFA for winning the hotly=-contested FFA senior division, with some 49 teams competing.

One part of the competition asks the contestants to distinguish between real and imitation dairy products. While that may sound easy, with today's health-conscious advertising and wide array of products, it's not nearly as easy as it sounds.

As a volunteer coach for a team in the competition, I discovered that low-fat sour cream, although it contains many things sour cream does not contain, is still considered a dairy product. The line is so confusing that sherbet, which most people would assume is non-dairy, is actually diary, according to sources at the American Dairy Association. In fact, the word 'sherbert' means that it contains milk.

Typically, most sources say that if the label starts out with milk as the first ingredient, it is a dairy product. If it starts out with water as the lead ingredient there in the highest quantity, then it is; likely a non-dairy product.

The issue rally becomes confusing when you throw in skim, 1%, and 2% milk. All are milk, certainly a dairy product, with fat solids removed. Official federal guidelines say that fro skim milk, for example, it can contain a maximum of 0.5% milk fat. However, all of the reduced fat milk products must still contain at least 8% or more of non-fat milk solids.

There is a 'real dairy's seal, but to further complicate the issue, not every manufacturer uses it. As the rules state, the product must meet qualifications of being all dairy to bear the label. However, if the product is all dairy and the company doesn't want to use the label for whatever reason, they don 't have to affix it to the product labeling. Therefore you can't rely on the 'real dairy' logo to help you distinguish between true dairy and non-dairy products.

Another problem exists with imitation chesses. Most include some proportion of vegetable oil. However, there are not consistent standards set for what imitation cheeses contain. Therefore, you're not sure what you're getting with imitation cheese unless you read the ingredient list. Most imitation cheese products will carry the name 'imitation' somewhere on the label.
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