This past week, the European Union (EU) rejected Amendment number 171, proposed legislation that would increase existing restrictions on dairy-related terms. The intention was for terms such as “almond milk” and “vegan cheese” are already banned from products in the EU, but 171 would have further restricted vegan dairy alternatives using also other descriptive terms such as “yogurt style” and “cheese alternative.”
The proposed legislation would also have prohibited the use of dairy-related imagery such as white-colored swirls on a carton of oat milk or any other visuals or statement evoking or imitating dairy products, not even helpful allergen information as “does not contain milk” will be prohibited for use by plant-based products if 171 manages to pass.
The move comes after a petition started by food awareness organization ProVeg International against the restrictive legislation gained 456,000 signatures.
The action to stop 171 included support from vegan climate celebrity Greta Thunberg and many leading NGOs such as Greenpeace, WWF, and private companies such as Violife, Oatly, and Nestlé, and many others.
“As a founding member of the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods, tackling anti-competitive legislation has always been top of our agenda. For the past few months, Upfield has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 171 and today's decision to reject it is a win for the plant-based food industry and for all those people who signed the petition to pledge their support, But the battle is not won. Justice for consumers and for our planet will only be achieved when plant-based foods are given fair treatment with animal-based foods under the law.”Jeanette Fielding, PhD, Chief Corporate Affairs and Communications Officer at Upfield
A similar battle has been waged against producers of dairy-free products by those with dairy industry interests. The Dairy Pride Act has been circulating in Congress for many years. The legislation aims to limit the terms plant-based products are allowed to use. They claim that using the word “milk” on dairy-free products or even recognizable qualifiers is misleading to consumers.
Last year, vegan brand Miyoko's Creamery managed to succeed against the dairy-producing State of California. Miyoko's Creamery a company producing dairy-free products such as vegan butter and cashew-based cheese filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) after the agency demanded the brand to remove terms such as “dairy” and “butter” and “cruelty-free” to describe its vegan butter.
In August 2020, a US District Court Judge granted the vegan company a special court order to block the State of California from enforcing its demands, explaining that Miyoko's use of “butter” has the First Amendment protection.