Reprieve for plant-based dairy sector as EU rejects proposals to restrict use of dairy-derived terms

EUROPE – The plant-based dairy sector in the European Union is a happy lot following the decision by EU bodies to reject Amendment 171 (AM171) which would have imposed new restrictions on the terminology used by the plant-based dairy sector.

If approved, the legislation would have prevented brands in the dairy alternatives sector from using descriptive terms such as ‘creamy’, ‘buttery’ or ‘vegan alternative to yogurt’.

It goes without saying that the dairy alternatives sector in the EU is heavily regulated when it comes to what terms they can use on their branding.

The EU already outlaws the use of dairy-derived terms such as ‘almond milk’ or ‘vegan cheese’, and AM171 would have had further implications for the budding dairy alternatives sector.

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Visual depictions of plant-based foods that could be judged to be ‘evoking’ or ‘imitating’ dairy, as well as certain packaging formats, would also have been prohibited.

In addition, AM171 would have put an end to brands using claims that compare vegan alternatives to dairy foods – for example, ‘half the carbon emissions of dairy butter’.

Last year, the European Parliament voted to reject a ban on plant-based products using names typically associated with meat products, but voted in favour of a plant-based dairy ban.

AM171 has now been dropped by the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission, ahead of the EU’s super trilogues.

The dropping of the amendment follows objections to the draft legislation from a diverse group of stakeholders.

This included a public petition signed by 456,000 consumers which was spearheaded by ProVeg International, Upfield and Oatly, and supported by 96 other organisations.

NGOs, food companies such as Nestlé, Greta Thunberg and representatives of the dairy industry were also among critics of the amendment.

“We welcome the decision to reject Amendment 171. It is essential and time critical to focus on removing legal obstacles hindering the shift towards a sustainable food system, not introducing new ones, ” said Cecilia McAleavey, director of public affairs and sustainable eating at Oatly.

Meanwhile, the European Dairy Association (EDA) has stated that the decision to uphold existing restrictions on the use of terms such as ‘vegan cheese’ in the Common Agricultural Policy will continue to protect dairy industry products.

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