Reading Time: 3 minutes Last year, MEPs voted in favor of Amendment 171, aka the dairy ban Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The European Parliament is under growing pressure to scrap the ‘dairy ban‘ as an online petition has exceeded 300,000 signatures.

Last year, MEPs voted in favor of Amendment 171, aka the dairy ban. This would stop plant-based dairy producers from using descriptive terms. 

What is the dairy ban? (Amendment 171)

So, what is the dairy ban? Well, at this time, EU law already prohibits the use of terms including ‘almond milk’ or ‘vegan cheese’. However, the new rules would go further. 

Consequently, descriptors such as ‘yogurt-style’ and ‘cheese-alternative’ could now be banned too. In addition, the rules could prevent companies from using packaging styles such as butter blocks and milk cartons.

An ‘incomprehensible direction’

Swedish plant-based milk brand Oatly slammed the decision – describing it as ‘wacko’ and ‘incomprehensible’ direction to take ‘in the middle of a climate crisis’. 

“It isn’t so surprising considering there are more milk lobbyists in Brussels than actual cows in pasture during the summer months,” the brand said.

‘It could happen that you’d randomly mistake a plant-based product labeled ‘dairy-free’ for a dairy product…’

“…And when the Milk Lobby decides to flex its protein-rich muscles we all know what happens—the public loses out. How will consumers now be able to easily compare different food products in order to make more informed decisions about what they eat?”

Oatly launched an online campaign to highlight that consumers don’t get ‘confused’ when buying dairy-free options. 

Politicians: ‘We Know How To Read Labels’

Politician Francisco Guerreiro re-tweeted the campaign. He wrote: “To: Dairy industry and lobbied policy-makers. From: Consumers. No, we actually don’t buy oat milk by mistake, contrary to what you have been saying as an excuse to restrict the marketing of vegan products.

“We know how to read labels and distinguish cow milk from a plant-based milk.”

Guerreiro isn’t the only EU figure to have argued against the legislation. Polish politician Sylwia Spurek also condemned Amendment 171 online.

“Consumers want more plant-based products. We can’t and shouldn’t delay necessary changes.”

Sylwia Spurek, Politician

Earlier this month, she wrote: “Investing in a plant-based future is the only way forward – to tackle the climate crisis and safeguard animal rights and human health the EU must support this process, not impede. 

“Consumers want more plant-based products,” she then added: “We can’t and shouldn’t delay necessary changes.”

Petition: ‘Plant-based dairy censorship’

ProVeg has since created an online petition challenging Amendment 171 – which has attracted thousands of signatures.

It states: “We want you to put a halt to plant-based dairy censorship. Please reject amendment 171.

“If adopted, it would totally counteract the consumer shift to more sustainable eating habits that’s urgently needed to fight climate change.

“Dairy terms are already protected by law. Amendment 171 would go further and censor all use of dairy-related language, packaging, or imagery for plant-based foods.”

The petition then concludes: “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.”

Do plant-based labels confuse consumers?

A new empirical study has busted the myth that consumers are confused by labels such as ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ on plant-based products.

The study – conducted by Cornell University – has been published in the Journal of Animal and Environmental Law. 

“Companies typically use the terms ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ on their labels alongside terms like ‘beef’ or ‘milk’ (e.g. Almond milk) to describe their products to consumers,” the study states.

“Numerous states have passed legislation and initiated enforcement actions against plant-based food companies to prohibit this labeling practice. 

“Congress and the FDA are also considering such regulations at the federal level. The states claim that, when companies use terms that people traditionally associate with animal products on plant-based food labels, consumers become confused about whether they are buying animal products.”

However, the study, which surveyed 155 participants, found ‘consumers are no more likely to think that plant-based products come from an animal if the product’s name incorporates words traditionally associated with animal products than if it does not’.

Moreover, it argues ‘omitting words that are traditionally associated with animal products from the names of plant-based products actually causes consumers to be significantly more confused about the taste and uses of these products’. 

Amendment 171 ‘totally contradicts the EU’s own climate goals’.

PBN Poll

A poll conducted by Plant Based News surveyed more than 230 Twitter users. It found 95.1 percent of consumers are not confused by plant-based labels. 

One social media user wrote: “What confuses me is why the heavily lobbied #Amendment171, just outright censorship, is even being entertained by the EU Commission.

“It’s clearly a desperate attempt by the fat cats of unethical, unhealthy, and polluting industries to keep the public from waking up. Go Vegan!”

“Imagine grabbing a carton of milk and finding out it wasn’t cow’s breast milk. The horror,” another user said.

You can sign the petition against to reject Amendment 171 here

Liam Giliver

Liam is the former Deputy Editor of Plant Based News. He has written for The Independent, Huffington Post, Attitude Magazine, and more. He is also the author of 'We're Worried About Him'.