Plant-based brands hit back at dairy-related terms ban

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Trading Standards is the centre of debates over the labeling of vegan 'dairy' products and the confusion caused to consumers
Trading Standards is the centre of debates over the labeling of vegan 'dairy' products and the confusion caused to consumers

Related tags vegan plant-based Label

Plant-based food firms have hit back plans by Trading Standards to ban the use of dairy-related terms such as ‘sheese’, ‘mylk’ and ‘b+tter’ on their products.

Palm PR has launched a campaign in an effort to stop the new guidelines from “upending the way vegan brands have marketed themselves for years”.

The guidelines would prevent brands from using misspellings, homophonic words or non-alphabet symbols to refer to dairy claims, according to investigative reporting by The Times.

A petition launched with the campaign has been signed by The Vegan Society and vegan charity Viva, as well as a number of plant-based dairy companies, including Cocos Organic and Nush Food.

Evolving plant-based standards

Palm hoped the campaign will encourage Trading Standards to evolve its overall guidelines to better fit a ‘modern and dynamic’ food and drink industry. It argued the guidelines would create limitations for the sector.

Founders Emily and Liam Keogh said: “We believe that the vegan sector can live in harmony alongside the rest of the food and drink industry, that it’s possible to support both the plant-based and non-vegan parts of the market and that the plant-based industry’s success reinforces the success of all of the UK’s food and drink economy.

That’s why we are petitioning Trading Standards to allow plant-based brands to continue to use dairy-related terms. We are passionate about promoting as much choice as possible in the food and drink industry and that there should be a level playing field between categories.

“We also believe that the UK’s vegan food industry is an incredible part of the economy and should be celebrated – it’s a world-leader, generates millions of pounds of revenue a year and promotes more choice for consumers.”

Consumers not confused by ‘Sheese’

Vegan Society chief executive Steve Hamon claimed there was no evidence that consumers were confused when buying plant-based dairy alternatives and to argue that terms such as ‘not milk’ and ‘sheese’ are confusing and should be banned was “ridiculous”.

This proposed measure is based on outdated regulations and appears to be driven solely by commercial interests rather than consumer interests,”​ he added. “Instead, it would actually limit consumer choice and work to suppress innovation in the green plant-based industry, where the UK should be a world leader.

“Plant-based foods emit half the amount of greenhouse gases as animal-based foods and we urgently need to shift diets to help tackle climate change. Trading Standards should drop this proposal which represents a huge step backwards for the UK.” 

Meanwhile, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has published a report that warned that the lack of legal definition for vegan foods potentially puts people with allergies at risk, as well as causing confusion for consumers and businesses.

No legal definition

Currently, there is no legal definition of whether food sold as vegan or plat-based can contain ingredients such as milk or other animal-derived products.

While the vegan moniker suggests that a product does not contain any ingredients of animal origin, it does not account for traces of these products from making their way into vegan foods. Nothing in the law says these products have to be completely clear of animal-derived ingredients.

“As well as causing confusion for consumers and businesses, the lack of legal definition could be exploited by unethical food businesses claiming foods are as vegan, when in fact they contain animal-derived products,” ​said CTSI chief executive John Herriman.

“Perhaps of greater concern is that this ambiguity can have disastrous and sometimes tragic consequences for those with allergies to animal-derived products, like milk and eggs. We are aware that people have sadly lost their lives because of this and are therefore calling for more clarity on what can and can’t legally be described as vegan and plant-based food.”

Related topics Plant-Based Packaging & Labelling

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