Vegan food group ProVeg International has teamed with activist brand Oatly and Flora margarine-owner Upfield in a bid to overturn an EU ban on dairy-like terminology for plant-based alternatives.
Last October MEPs voted in favour of Amendment 171, which would place further restrictions on the use of dairy terminology by the makers of non-dairy foods.
Now, ProVeg, Oatly and Upfield have launched a joint petition to block what they are calling the “climate hostile Amendment”.
As well as extending existing restrictions around the use of dairy-related terms when describing or packaging plant-based foods, the Amendment would ban phrases such as ‘does not contain milk’. This, the petitioners say, amounts to “plant-based censorship”.
They argue that such restrictions would make it more difficult for consumers to choose plant-based foods in spite of fast-growing demand, and also threaten consumers’ right to information and companies’ right to fair competition. They also warn that Amendment 171 “directly interferes with the EU’s vital sustainability efforts such as the Green Deal”.
The European plant-based-dairy sector is already prohibited from using terms like ‘oat milk’ and ‘soya yoghurt’. This amendment would significantly expand those restrictions by prohibiting any use of ‘evocations’ of dairy products on plant-based packaging or in advertising.
“It is baffling to once again be forced to justify sustainability. Why would we sabotage innovation? Who will benefit? Green energy is no longer being stifled or opposed, so why are we still suppressing and censoring sustainable food production, given the urgency of the situation?”
“This goes directly against the EU’s intent to promote more sustainable food production and makes it more difficult for consumers to choose plant-based options,” says Oatly’s Cecilia McAleavey, director of public affairs and sustainable eating. “Given the climate crisis, it’s irresponsible to try and prevent us from encouraging people to make the switch to plant-based and help protect the planet in the process. People are not stupid – everyone understands that this is an attempt by the dairy lobby to hinder the shift towards sustainable plant-based eating.”
As well as prohibiting wordings such as ‘it’s like milk’, ‘creamy’, or ‘buttery’, Amendment 171 would prohibit making carbon footprint comparisons between a plant-based food product and its dairy equivalent. Restrictions would also extend to pictorial messaging – for example, preventing use of images showing a plant-based white beverage being poured at a breakfast table, or white foam swirling into a cappuccino. Packaging designs that were visually similar to dairy packaging would also be banned.
Jasmijn de Boo, vice president of ProVeg International, said: “It is baffling to once again be forced to justify sustainability. Why would we sabotage innovation? Who will benefit? Green energy is no longer being stifled or opposed, so why are we still suppressing and censoring sustainable food production, given the urgency of the situation? Who stands to lose here? We need to adapt across every part of our food chain if we’re to tackle the climate crisis. Genuinely sustainable food production must be enabled. How will we reach our climate goals if we allow the influence of powerful but unsustainable industries to determine our collective fate?”