The National Farmers Union [NFU] has complained about the use of the word ‘milk’ to describe plant-based alternatives.
According to the NFU, sometimes these non-dairy alternatives are promoted in a way that does not make it clear that they are not animal secretions.
A 2007 European Union ruling states that certain words – ‘milk’, ‘yoghurt’ and ‘butter’ – can be used only to describe dairy products.
The ruling states: “Dairy analogues or products that are not purely dairy may not be labelled, advertised or presented using protected terms reserved for milk and milk products.
“In addition, there should be no direct or indirect suggestion of dairy connection by ‘non pure’ or imitation products”.
This means that in order to avoid misleading consumers, retailers must make it clear that plant-based drinks do not contain any animal secretions.
The NFU claims that retailers categorise beverages, including almond milk alternatives, in a way that could be confusing to consumers. For example, supermarket Sainsbury’s lists almond, soya and rice milk in a section called ‘dairy-free milk’.
Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose were all contacted by The Telegraph newspaper regarding this labelling. All three said they would change their websites.
Chairman of the NFU national dairy board,Michael Oakes, said: “The legal requirement is that if something is called milk it must come from a mammal.
“So in a supermarket, if it isn’t milk, it shouldn’t be in the ‘milk’ section – we are talking to retailers about this.”
This follows a similar situtaion in the USA. Last year, Congressmen wrote to the Food and Drug Administration to demand that non-dairy milks do not feature the word ‘milk’ as the dairy industry believes this is ‘misleading’ to consumers.
Recent statistics have shown the non-dairy milk market is set to grow globally from $8.2 billion in 2014 to $19.5 billion in 2020, with 15.5 per cent growth from 2015-2020.