On October 23 2020, the European Parliament voted yes on amendment 171 and if adopted, it will have massive consequences for the plant-based food industry and the growing number of consumers who choose to buy plant-based — not to mention the fact that AM 171 totally contradicts the EU’s own climate goals.
Informative descriptions like ”doesn’t contain milk” can’t be used for products that don’t um…contain milk.
Plant-based products can’t be described as ”alternative to” dairy products.
You can’t communicate climate impact comparisons (or any comparisons) between plant-based and dairy products.
Even the creamiest plant-based product can’t be called ”creamy”, since the creaminess was not provided by a cow.
Plant-based products might not even be allowed to use the same packaging as dairy products.
Well, the short answer is that the milk lobby seems to think that expressions like ”not milk” are confusing to you as a consumer. Like, how can you tell that a product labeled ”not milk” really is not…milk? Yeah, tricky question, right? Or not. Because you aren’t stupid, of course.
The background story
In the ongoing reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), different regulations are up for discussion. One of them is EU Regulation No 1308/2013, establishing a common organization of agricultural product markets (CMO Regulation) which was adopted by the EU in 2013. This regulation, for example, states that terms like ”milk”, ”cheese” and ”yogurt” can only be used to describe products that originate from animals. Which means that combining a plant-based word like ”oat” with ”milk” to describe a product is not allowed.
...the current regulations still allow plant-based products to be described as ”not milk” and ”milk free” and ”yoghurt alternative”—which probably seems both logical and helpful to you as a consumer, right?
...amendment 171 seeks to extend existing restrictions to the ”direct or indirect use” or ”evocation” of protected terms that reference dairy, all in the interest of ”protecting consumers.” From what, you might ask? Clear information? Yeah, apparently. Regardless of why you choose to buy plant-based foods, amendment 171 will make it harder to identify them and to objectively compare them with dairy products. And by the way, censoring plant-based foods flies in the face of the EU’s very own existing legislation on food information, which states that its main goal is to ”provide clear, accessible information about food to consumers.”
...And what about the climate?
The EU seems confused there, too. Amendment 171 will contradict the EU’s own sustainability ambitions. As part of the European Green Deal (with the goal to make the EU climate neutral by 2050), the Farm to Fork Strategy highlights the fact that current EU food consumption patterns are unsustainable, calling for a shift to more plant-based diets, both for reasons of public health and for environmental protection. Amendment 171 is a move in the opposite direction, creating a huge road block for both consumers and the European plant-based food sector.
This isn’t over!
Okay, so the European Parliament voted yes on amendment 171, but there's still a chance it won’t be adopted into law. Next up are trilogue negotiations involving the European Parliament, the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission. The commission's own evaluation showed that there is no need for any further restrictions beyond what is already in place, and if the council also supports providing consumers with clear information on plant-based foods, there is a chance that amendment 171 can be rejected.
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