The UK’s Plant-Based Food Alliance (PBFA) has said that a draft guideline that would restrict the labelling of plant-based products in the country should “be torn up”.
The guidance, formulated in February 2022 by the Food Standards and Information Focus Group and currently awaiting publication, outlines that the terms ‘mylk,’ ‘m*lk,’ ‘not m*lk’ or ‘alternative to’ when referring to plant-based dairy products should be banned.
The guidance is based on the belief that consumers may experience confusion when confronted with names like ‘plant-based butter’ or ‘not milk’. However, in the US, the FDA released draft guidance this year stating that the term “milk” could be used for plant-based drinks due to the absence of consumer confusion surrounding such labelling.
The alliance has expressed concern that if the guidance is published, products could be removed from shelves if the labelling on the product does not comply with requirements.
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs told PBFA members that responsibility for the issue lies “solely with local authorities and the Trading Standards Officers acting on their behalf”.
PBFA CEO Marisa Heath said: “The guidance was drafted behind closed doors and without the consultation of the plant-based food sector. Not only was this developed in an undemocratic process, but it is also highly anti-competitive as it restricts consumer choice and seeks to curb a booming industry.”
ProVeg UK said the guidance will introduce “tougher rules on plant-based labelling” than those that are already in place in the European Union.
It listed brand names that would be forbidden from supermarket shelves and coffee shops under the new guidance, including Flora Plant B*tter, M.L.K.Ology, Wunda Plant Based Not Milk, Good Hemp – Oat + Hemp Milk, Mylk and Qurkee M’LK, among others.
According to Nielsen data published by the Good Food Institute Europe, total unit sales for plant-based milk increased by 17% between 2020-2022.
Jimmy Pierson, director at ProVeg UK, said: “It seems incomprehensible that the government would impose such restrictive measures on a booming part of the UK economy. It is both outrageous to push this forward and hugely unnecessary.”
He added: “It sends out the wrong message about supporting British business and about tackling climate change. Plant-based diets emit half as much greenhouse gas as animal-based diets and should be actively encouraged by the government, not hindered.”
Jeremy Coller, president of the Alternative Proteins Association in the UK, said: “Civil servants must have a rather dim view of British consumers if they think shoppers find labels such as ‘vegan cheese’ and ‘soya mylk’ unduly confusing”.
He added that if the government is “serious about growing the economy and supporting business in the UK,” it should let consumers make up their own minds.
Commenting on the draft guidelines, founder of plant-based food producer Allplants, Jonathan Petrides, wrote in a LinkedIn post: “Ever heard suggestions to ban the name ‘Electric Car’ because cars have “traditionally been built with combustion engines” and people might get confused…If the government would actually regulate in the interests of normal people, we could stop big destructive industries from all this endless milking.”
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