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Plant drinks still allowed to be called milk alternatives

by Michael Stahl (comments: 0)

Oat milk © Pixabay / Pezibear
Oats in coffee: The fact that the cereal drink can replace milk may continue to be advertised as such. © Pixabay / Pezibear

In the last week of May, the producers of plant-based milk alternatives were able to celebrate an important success: the EU Parliament withdrew the controversial Amendment 171, which would have meant further restrictions for them in advertising their products.

Manufacturers of plant-based products can thus continue to make references to dairy products, i.e. continue to advertise their drinks with terms such as "milk substitute drink" or "milky consistency". Irrespective of this, terms such as "milk", "butter", "cheese" or "yoghurt" remain protected by law and may only be used in connection with animal products. Terms such as "soy yoghurt" or "oat milk" continue to be prohibited. In October 2020, MEPs had already voted against a proposal that terms such as "burger", "steak", "schnitzel" or "sausage" should only be allowed for food made from meat.

"Above all for manufacturers, there is now legal certainty in the labelling of their plant-based milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese and cream alternatives", comments the law firm Wild Beuger Solmecke on the decision of the EU Parliament. In addition, according to the law firm, consumers also benefit from the EU Parliament's decision because "access to plant-based products is no longer made unnecessarily difficult for them by the creation of unfamiliar fantasy names". Wild Beuger Solmecke has already represented the manufacturers Tofutown and Happy Cheeze in product labelling disputes.

CAP negotiations break-off

In the run-up to the decision, numerous companies from the industry such as Oatly, Natumi or Lima as well as vegan associations had mobilised against the plans. By the end of last week, more than 450,000 people had signed a petition to reject the amendment.

Amendment 171 was part of the negotiations between the European Parliament, the EU Commission and the Council on a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which sets the framework conditions for agriculture in the EU. In the so-called "trialogue", the three institutions involved in the legislative process were unable to agree on stricter environmental requirements for the promotion of farms in the Union, which is why the negotiations were broken off on Friday last week. Opposition apparently came mainly from the members of the Council, the agriculture ministers of the EU states.

"The way the Council behaved in the nightly negotiations, I can only get the impression that some countries do not want an agreement at all, even after two and a half years," said Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesman of the Greens in the European Parliament, after the talks broke down. "Some of them seem to be following the motto of wanting to continue to give as much money as possible to their farmers without having to fulfil any significant conditions." The three EU institutions plan to resume talks in the course of June.


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