European Parliament allows ‘buttery’ adjectives on dairy-free products

28 May 2021

In a u-turn from its policy last fall, the European Parliament dropped Amendment 171 and will allow manufacturers to use descriptive terms like “buttery” and “creamy” to describe plant-based products.

Last October, terms directly referencing dairy equivalents such as “vegan cheese,” “almond milk” and “yogurt style” were banned from use on plant-based product alternatives, and those restrictions remain in place.

European Parliament allows ‘buttery’ adjectives on dairy-free products

In a letter to the European Commission, European Council and the European Parliament, 20 organizations such as the Good Food Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace called on the European governing bodies to oppose the ratification of Amendment 171 because “it would introduce new, unnecessary and extreme restrictions on the labelling of plant-based dairy products.”

Restrictions in the original amendment included a limit on the use of packaging that is similar to that used for dairy products, such as cartons; using descriptors that are traditionally used for dairy; using images on packaging that could be interpreted as dairy products, such as a cappuccino; and comparing the carbon footprints of conventional and plant-based dairy.

In the letter sent by the coalition of non-profits, signatories emphasized that such limitations “would deprive consumers of essential information about the suitability of plant-based products in their diets, and directly contradict the sustainability goals of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy.”

In addition to a formal opposition letter, 456,000 consumers and 96 other associations signed a public petition opposing this amendment.

As part of the adjustment to the original amendment, not only will descriptive terms that reference dairy be allowed, but so too will environmental comparisons, essential allergen information, and the use of milk cartons for packaging.

While the adjustment to this amendment does not entirely void it, the compromise was reportedly met with satisfaction from both sides. Major proponents of the amendment that was originally passed in October belonged to the European dairy industry.

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