In October last year the EU parliament stopped an attempt by European farming organisations to secure the re-labelling of all alt meats products.
Yet while the EU spared the continent from having to use the words ‘veggie dis’c to describe a veggie burger it did approve Amendment 171, which could have a profound impact on the plant-based dairy industry.
The legislation could ultimately ban the use of ‘dairy’ terminology on non-dairy products outlawing plant-based dairy providers from saying their products are ‘ like milk’, ‘creamy’, or ‘buttery. It would also mean that companies wouldn’t be able to show the climate impact by comparing the carbon footprint of a plant-based food item with its dairy equivalent, a tactic that has frequently been used by Swedish alt milk maker Oatly and several of its rivals. Even packaging would have to look different from dairy products.
The legislation has spurred several high profile plant-based dairy providers into action with Oatly, ProVeg International (the company behind the campaign to stop the veggie burger ban), Compassion In World Farming and Upfield (the owner of butter alternative Flora) teaming up to launch a petition.
The petition says Words and phrases like “contains no dairy” or “creamy texture” might be banned. The same goes for a tweet or an advert mentioning scientific data showing that a product causes, for example, “half the carbon emissions of dairy butter”. Bizarrely, the amendment could even prohibit plant-based foods from using photos of their own products on packaging.
In this way, amendment 171 would not only hide information from consumers but also hinder innovation and the emerging sustainable food sector. Altogether, it would be a huge reversal of the work done so far to meet the EU’s own goals on public health and sustainability, as agreed under the terms of the Paris Agreement. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s a highly irresponsible move.
The legislation is currently undergoing trilogue negotiations, which involves a conversation between the European Parliament, the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission.
The petitioners argue “The European Commission is likely to reject the amendment based on previous voting records, and if we can get the EU Council of Ministers on side, there is hope for the plant-based sector yet.
Oatly’s Director of Public Affairs Cecilia McAleavey told Vegan Food and Living : “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.”