Creative names can be a way for companies to get around the U.S. standards that spell out what constitute a particular food item. Some examples:
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In the 1920s, Bred-Spred's deliberate misspelling helped protect the jam-like substance from regulators. The product had relatively little fruit and relied on coloring and flavoring to make it resemble preserves, according to Suzanne White Junod, a historian with the Food and Drug Administration. Regulators called the images of fruit on its label "deceptive." Attempts to go after it in court failed because its name.
Years earlier in a separate case, a judge had said a distinctive name was "either one so arbitrary or fanciful as to clearly distinguish it from all other things."
Chil-Zert was the first commercial soy-based ice cream. It was created in the 1950s by Rich Products, which made other nondairy alternatives including whipped cream and coffee creamer. Federal regulators said Chil-Zert should be labeled as an imitation and took it to court, says Xaq Frohlich, a professor of food labeling and history at Auburn University. The product eventually disappeared.
In an obituary , The New York Times called company founder Robert Rich a "food processing pioneer," noting he engaged in legal battles with the dairy industry over its attempts to have his products banned.
In the 1950s, Jif was only about 75 percent peanuts , with the rest made from oils and artificial flavors. The low peanut content was one of the reasons the Food and Drug Administration eventually established a standard of identity for peanut butter. The process was highly contentious and took more than a decade.
The FDA initially proposed that peanut butter had to be at least 95 percent peanuts. The industry pushed for 87 percent. In 1970, a finalized standard drew the line at 90 percent peanuts, a threshold that Jif now meets.
According to the standards of identity, "whipped cream" and "whipping cream" have milkfat requirements. Cool Whip's enticing but vague name doesn't require it to meet those standards.
Among the ingredients listed on Cool Whip's website : Water, hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup and skim milk. It contains less than 2 percent of light cream and other ingredients.
A yogurt alternative dubbed "cashewgurt" is now being sold by Forager. CEO Stephen Williamson said the company tried to label the product yogurt, but was shot down by regulators.
Williamson said Forager may have to rename its "cashewmilk" because the FDA has signaled that word may run afoul of the standard for milk, which is defined as coming from a cow. But he thinks "cashewgurt" is safe.
"The word 'gurt' — or the four letters g-u-r-t — attached to 'cashew' is different from the word 'yogurt'," Williamson explains.