Producers using the term ‘milk’ to market purely plant-based products have been forced to rebrand.
The EU Court of Justice confirmed a ban on products of a ‘purely plant-based substance’ using milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt as a marketing tool – terms reserved by EU law for milk of animal origin or products directly derived from bovine milk.
There are some allowances, including coconut milk, nut butter and ice cream, but the majority rule applies to all products not on the list of exceptions, such as soya and tofu.
NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said: “I think the ruling is very positive.
“The issue was of growing concern amongst our members and we raised it in the media only last week as we were noticing more instances where plant-based products were being promoted in a way which did not make it clear that they are not dairy products.
“It is about better labelling.”
It came as German company TofuTown argued its advertising of vegan and vegetarian purely plant-based products – Soyatoo Tofu Butter, Rice Spray Cream and Veggie Cheese – did not infringe any relevant EU legislation.
It said consumers had changed the way they understood the designations and were not confused or mis-led about the content.
But a German association hit back with concern the product was unfairly branded.
The European Dairy Association (EDA) said it was a ‘good day for dairy’.
EDA Secretary-general Alexander Anton added: “The unique and natural blend of micro- and macronutrients of milk and dairy products cannot be matched by any plant-based product.
“Even in explaining the difference on the packaging, those plant-based products are not allowed to misuse our dairy terms for marketing their products.”