Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The government is considering putting a ban on labelling dairy alternatives with words like ‘cheese’ ‘milk’ and ‘butter’.
If the ruling comes into place, it will mean that all dairy replacement brands will have to refrain from comparing themselves to the real thing.
As well as affecting products made for vegans, it will also affect almond, soya and oat ‘milks’ and long-standing brands, like Flora’s ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ from using catchphrases that liken them in any way to a dairy product.
Plus, playing on these words (like m*lk or mylk) will also be banned, as will saying a product is flavoured like a dairy product (for example, a cheddar flavoured block).
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The news of the ruling first broke last month, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) later confirmed that Trading Standards officers were knocking up a document which looked into how to enforce these rules.
In a statement which appeared in Food Ingredients First, they said: “There are clear rules in place so shoppers are not misled by labels and can buy with confidence.
“These include long-standing rules reserving use of specific dairy terms, including ‘milk’ and ‘butter,’ exclusively for milk and milk products.”
The government department added that the proposition from Trading Standards was being “carefully considered”.
In the wake of the news, as many as 44 vegan brands and organisations have came together to urge the government not to enforce the rules.
The likes of Quron, Alpro and Oatly and the Good Food Institute are against any change to labelling rules, stating that they could be detremental to the government’s own efforts to encourage sustainable and plant-based swaps.
Marisa Heath, chief executive of Plant-Based Food Alliance, told Plant Based News: “We want to work with stakeholders and government to consider a new labelling system for plant-based alternatives, which recognises the advances in food technology and consumer awareness in 2023,” she said.
“The UK could really lead the way here indicating it is open for business and innovation in plant-based food and drink. This would align perfectly with their ambitions around science, innovation and technology as well as economic growth.
“Publishing the enforcement notice does the exact opposite, as well as undermining the environmental agenda.”
Stephanie Holmes from Upfield, the company that makes ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’, said: “This is totally out of keeping and out of touch with the way people act on a day-to-day basis.
“Consumers aren’t stupid and aren’t confused by these commonly used names.”
A similar ruling about the names of dairy products was also rejected by the European Parliament, although it is yet to be seen what stance the UK government will take.