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.
It follows several legislations calling for a ban on plant-based products being labeled with reference to their meat/dairy counterpart.
“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’.
Last year, the European Parliament voted to reject a ‘veggie burger ban’ forbidding vegan producers from using terms like ‘burger’.
However, while MEPs voted against this proposal, they voted in favor of Amendment 171 – aka the ‘dairy ban’. This would stop plant-based dairy producers from using descriptive terms.
At this time, EU law already bans 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.
A petition created by ProVeg urging the EU to reject Amendment 171 has garnered more than 255,000 signatures. It has received global media attention and support from companies such as Oatly.