Activists sue Turkish government for ‘unconstitutional’ banning of vegan cheese

8 Aug 2022

Activists in Turkey have slammed the government’s decision to ban the production and sale of vegan cheese products in the country as unconstitutional, with lawsuits and a 7,200-strong petition under way.

In a February 2020 ruling, Turkey outlawed products “giving the impression of cheese” that are made from vegetable oil or “other food ingredients” (translated from Official Gazette 31044, Article 9, section 3).

Activists sue Turkish government for ‘unconstitutional’ banning of vegan cheese
Pictured: Vegan cheese made with cashew nuts © AdobeStock/vaaseenaa

A Change.Org petition filed by the Vegan Association Turkey (TVD), an animal rights organisation, against several government agencies and ministries said the “unprecedented ban” has led to plant-based cheese producers being fined, recalls of vegan cheeses from the market, and consumers being denied access to these products for the past two years.

“Trying to stop the production of vegan cheese and recalling vegan cheese from the market with this new substance, which has no consistent or plausible basis, constitutes a violation of both national and international law,” it urged.

A violation of the constitution

By stating that manufacturers – which had been legally operating until the new regulation was imposed – are now in sudden and arbitrary violation of the law, “the principles of legality and proportionality have been exceeded”, the TVD said.

It went on to claim that the regulation is in violation of the Turkish constitution and international agreements.

Prior to the ban, it was already illegal to call plant-based products “cheese” in both Turkey and the European Union.

Although countries including France and South Africa have taken the EU law a step further, banning the use of “meaty” terms such as “sausage”, “steak”, and “nuggets” to refer to plant-based products, Turkey is the first country in the world to ban the production and sale of vegan offerings that resemble an animal-based product, according to the TVD.

Lobby group lawsuits

In a statement, the TVD said it was now suing Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, hoping to lift the ban by abolishing the regulation.

The suit also requests a stay of execution against the violations, as well as losses of rights by consumers and producers across the country.

The case is the culmination of a host of previous efforts to negotiate with the Turkish government, according to the lobby group. In April, the TVD said it visited Turkey’s Department of Food Businesses and Codex under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to report the problems, but said: “Unfortunately, no solution was provided and no constructive steps were taken.”

According to the Department of Food Businesses and Codex, even the fact that the vacuum packaging reminds [one] of cheese “can be considered as [a] ‘corruption/scam’ on its own”, the TVD added.

In May, it also filed a lawsuit with the Council of Higher Education highlighting the nutrition problems for vegan students at universities across Turkey. In July, the group further appealed to the Ombudsman Institution to “fulfil the vegan menu demands of vegan students studying at Istanbul Technical University”, warning that they had been “ignored by the university rector for months”.

In its (translated) statement announcing its lawsuit to lift the ban on vegan cheeses, the TVD said: “In the light of the grievances reached by vegan consumers and vegan cheese producers, the association has not responded to their requests to the ministry and as a result of violations, article 9/3 of the Turkish Food Codex Regulation, which prohibits the production and sale of vegan cheese, and 5 of the Turkish Food Codex Cheese Communiqué, [we] filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry at the Council of State for the annulment of the /d clause.”

Public support for lifting the ban

The TVD’s efforts have received public support. At the time of publication, its Change.org petition had garnered more than 7,200 of the 7,500 signatures sought.

The lawsuit claims that the Turkish government is acting in violation to consumers’ right to a healthy life, choice, and access to food under the Turkish Constitution, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Vegan producers have likewise backed the cause, with the TVD joining a lawsuit from a plant-based cheese producer who was fined under the ban.

Related news

NutriScore algorithm update a ‘step in right direction’

NutriScore algorithm update a ‘step in right direction’

7 Sep 2022

Campaigning organisation Foodwatch International is hailing the update to the NutriScore algorithm as a “step in the right direction” but says there is still space for further improvement.

Read more 
Are new WHO sweeteners guidelines ‘a disservice’ to public health?

Are new WHO sweeteners guidelines ‘a disservice’ to public health?

6 Sep 2022

New draft recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) warn that zero-calorie sweeteners should not be used to help weight control or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases’ (NCDs) – sparking mixed reactions from industry groups.

Read more 
How the Ukraine crisis may affect the food chain transition

How the Ukraine crisis may affect the food chain transition

2 Sep 2022

From supply issues to price surges, the impacts of the Russo-Ukrainian war on the global food value chain are significant. What pain points has this crisis exposed, and what should the response be?

Read more 
Canadian authorities report titanium dioxide is safe in food, in the face of EU ban

Canadian authorities report titanium dioxide is safe in food, in the face of EU ban

1 Sep 2022

Health Canada joins the UK’s Food Standards Agency in concluding that titanium dioxide is ‘safe to consume’, putting it squarely at odds with recent safety assessments in Europe that led to a ban of the ingredient.

Read more 
Most food businesses are placing inflationary costs on consumers, survey finds

Most food businesses are placing inflationary costs on consumers, survey finds

31 Aug 2022

Consumers are being hit with product price increases as manufacturers pass on higher costs to the public. But with some major food manufacturers registering profits, is a public backlash on the cards?

Read more 
Hyperlocalisation promotes food system resilience and diversification

Hyperlocalisation promotes food system resilience and diversification

30 Aug 2022

Climate change action and new technologies are driving a rise in hyperlocalisation throughout the global food chain, improving the industry’s adaptability and ability to meet consumer demands for greater choice.

Read more 
Tackling the rise of antimicrobial resistance

Tackling the rise of antimicrobial resistance

29 Aug 2022

As the 2030 goal of halving antimicrobial use edges closer and a 2022 regulation is brought in to reduce antibiotic use on farm animals, the food industry is loudening its calls for action amid the increasing resistance to antimicrobials.

Read more 
WWF report slams Europe’s damning effect on the global food system

WWF report slams Europe’s damning effect on the global food system

26 Aug 2022

Europe may not be helping, but in fact hindering the global food system by inciting gross environmental, societal, and fiscal harm, a recent WWF report shows. Consumers however are hungry for change.

Read more 
Researchers develop automation method to isolate volatile food ingredients

Researchers develop automation method to isolate volatile food ingredients

25 Aug 2022

A research team in Germany has applied automation to a long-standing method to isolate volatile food compounds, creating advantages over the existing manual process, which include food manufacturers’ potential to increase yields and lower the contamina...

Read more 
New partnership strives to improve cocoa farming in Ivory Coast

New partnership strives to improve cocoa farming in Ivory Coast

24 Aug 2022

Conseil du Cafe-Cacao and IDH’s Sustainable Trade Initiative launch a new programme, Cocoaperation, to support cocoa farming and improve the livelihoods of cocoa producers.

Read more