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Agri-food giants demand EU rejects restrictions on labelling dairy alternatives

09 February 2021 Steve Gillman
  • Agri-food giants called on the EU to reject bans on dairy alternative terms like 'yoghurt style'
  • EU agriculture ministers will discuss these labelling rules in March
  • The European Parliament already voted to restrict wording like 'cheese alternative'

Some leading agri-food companies were part of a joint letter calling on EU member states to reject labelling restrictions on dairy alternatives.

Bunge and Unilever joined a total of 93 organisations - including Beyond Meat, Ikea and Alpro - in urging EU agriculture ministers not to ban terms like 'alternative to yoghurt' or 'creamy' on plant-based dairy products - rules stemming from 'Amendment 171'.

EU agriculture ministers and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will discuss Amendment 171 in March during their negotiations over the future Common Market Organisation (CMO) regulation. In November 2020, MEPs voted in favour to restrict dairy alternatives from using words such as 'yoghurt style' and 'cheese alternative', while member states' position on Amendment 171 is expected to become clearer next month.

The joint letter was coordinated by the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF), an advocacy group that argued consumers need phrases like 'plant-based alternative to yoghurt' or 'less CO2 emissions than butter' to better assess their product choices.

EAPF Secretary General Siska Pottie said in a statement: "In light of the rising scientific evidence on the health and environmental benefits of moving towards more plant-based diets, we ask the European Commission and Member States to live up to their sustainability goals and ambitions by opposing Amendment 171 and creating a level playing field for plant-based foods."

A recent report by think tank Chatham House identified an increase in plant-based diets as the most important change needed for a more sustainable food system, which is also one of the main goals of the Commission's Farm to Fork strategy.

But EAPF's letter may struggle to convince the member states more dependent on a strong livestock sector. In Ireland, where beef and dairy are the biggest sectors, Kantar reported sales of plant-based products dropping by 5.2% in the first month of 2021 - during 'Veganuary', a campaign ran by vegetarian groups to curb the consumption of animal products.

The European Dairy Association have also been strong proponents of restricting dairy terms and after MEPs backed their position, they said: "The protection of dairy terms, EU product definitions and marketing standards are crucial for the whole European dairy sector and assure the smooth functioning of the internal market for the dairy products."

The EAPF still argue that the growth of the plant-based sector offers opportunities to EU farmers and to the bloc's food industry. Mordor Intelligence expects the European dairy alternative market to reach €1.8 billion by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 7.12%.

Posted 09 February 2021 by Steve Gillman, Agri-Food Policy and Sustainability Correspondent, IHS Markit




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