UK – The UK’s Plant-based Food Alliance (PBFA) has repudiated draft guidelines formulated by the Food Standards and Information Focus Group to restrict the labeling of plant-based products in the country.
The guidance, drafted in February 2022 and currently awaiting publication, outlines that the terms ‘mylk,’ ‘m*lk,’ ‘not m*lk’ or ‘alternative to’ when referring to plant-based dairy products should be banned.
Based on the guidance’s belief consumers may experience confusion when confronted with names like ‘plant-based butter’ or ‘not milk’.
This guideline, however, contradicts the draft guidance released by the FDA in the US stating that the term “milk” could be used for plant-based drinks due to the absence of consumer confusion surrounding such labeling.
According to the PBFA CEO, Marisa Heath, the guidance was drafted behind closed doors and without consultation of the plant-based food sector.
“Not only was this developed in an undemocratic process, but it is also highly anti-competitive as it restricts consumer choice and seeks to curb a booming industry,” he noted.
The alliance also expressed concern that if the guidance is published, products could be removed from shelves if the labeling on the product does not comply with requirements.
ProVeg UK, an international and non-governmental organization that works in the field of food system change, added that the guidance would introduce tougher rules on plant-based labeling than those that are already in place in the EU.
“It seems incomprehensible that the government would impose such restrictive measures on a booming part of the UK economy. It is both outrageous to push this forward and hugely unnecessary,” Jimmy Pierson, director at ProVeg UK said.
He added that the decision would send out the wrong message about supporting British business and about tackling climate change since plant-based diets emit half as much greenhouse gas as animal-based diets and should be actively encouraged by the government and not hindered.
In addition, Jeremy Coller, president of the Alternative Proteins Association in the UK, added that Civil servants must have a rather dim view of British consumers if they think shoppers find labels such as ‘vegan cheese’ and ‘soya mylk’ unduly confusing.
He added that if the government is serious about growing the economy and supporting business in the UK, it should let consumers make up their own minds.
According to Nielsen data published by the Good Food Institute Europe, total unit sales for plant-based milk increased by 17% between 2020-2022.