A legislation change in Turkey has outlawed both the production and sale of dairy-free cheese. But the Vegan Association Turkey (TVD) is on a mission to overturn the ban with a new lawsuit.
Turkey’s blanket ban follows censorship mandates that already prevent plant-based brands from using the term “cheese” on their packaging.
The first word of the impending legal change came in February 2020. According to TVD, the Turkish Food Codex Regulation was amended to state that “breakfast fermented products (vegan cheese/cheese like) made from plant-based milk were prohibited.”
A full ban has now been implemented, following a Turkish Food Codex update in February of this year. Domestic producers are no longer selling vegan cheese and manufacturing facilities are now subject to inspections.
What does Turkey’s vegan cheese ban mean?
Plant-based cheese products must not mimic traditional cheese under the new policy. This includes appearance and marketing styles.
However, legislation wording has been deemed unclear by TVD.
The nonprofit said: “The fact that the necessary clarification has not been made even about the similarity criteria, which is the basis of the said ban, creates an open-ended area of pressure and action for the inspectors/punishers operating in this field.”
TVD has reportedly spoken with the government’s Department of Food and Codex. The discussion also brought into question the validity of products sold in packaging styles similar to that of dairy cheese.
Can TVD overturn the plant-based cheese ban?
The vegan association has now launched legal action to invalidate the dairy-free cheese ban in Turkey. Its case rests on the notions of protecting consumers’ rights to choice and ensuring profitable domestic manufacturing and trade.
“We are determined to use all solutions to the fullest against these obscure prohibitions, which are far from being convincing for producers and consumers and have been created on some unfair grounds,” TVD said in a statement.
The lawsuit directly targets the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It runs alongside another legal battle with the Turkish Council of Higher Education. (On the latter, TVD aims to see plant-based meals offered at all 205 of the country’s universities.)
Dismay at the growing trend of plant-based censorship
Food awareness charity ProVeg International has denounced what it calls “draconian” plant-based food laws. It considers them counterintuitive, given the importance of meat-free foods in the fight against the climate crisis, and is concerned about the growing number of new legislations.
“Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases, switching to plant-based foods entirely,” said Jasmijn de Boo, vice president of ProVeg.
ProVeg is no stranger to taking on conventional dairy. The organization is currently campaigning to have plant-based milk options added to EU school menus.
Its petition, which now has more than 59,000 signatures, addresses the environmental benefits of plant-based milk compared to traditional dairy. The latter generates three times more emissions than popular animal-free alternatives.
Animal rights concerns also plague the dairy sector. However, the plight of cows is being heard by more people. After learning about the cruel process of milk production, Miriam Margolyes is working with Animal Equality UK to call for an end to dairy farming.