EU bans "soy milk" and "tofu butter"

EU bans "soy milk" and "tofu butter"

Can a manufacturer of organic alternatives call its products “soy milk” or “tofu butter”? The European Court of Justice confirms it cannot, because the European Union has strict legislation about what can be called milk, cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

Only for dairy from animal descent

To be clear: the products themselves are not banned, but their names are. The European Court of Justice need to address an issue between German TofuTown (which owns 'Soyatoo Tofubutter', 'Pflanzenkäse' and 'Veggie-Cheese') and a German association that deemed such names misleading.

 

TofuTown claimed the consumer was well aware of the differences and can easily discern organic products from others. The judges say the European legislation is clear as day: milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and cream are all from animal descent. It can be misleading to use these names to refer to organic alternatives, even if the label clearly indicates its organic nature. The ruling confirms the common interpretation of the law.

 

There are a few exceptions: peanut butter, cocoa butter and coconut milk, all explicitly mentioned in the law, for each of the EU languages separately. Soy and tofu are nowhere to be found in that list, according to the judges in Luxembourg.

 

A poignant detail: the entire legislation is only for dairy alternatives, which means that meat and fish replacements can easily label themselves “vegetarian chicken” and “vegetarian tuna”. “These products are part of another legislation. There is no case for unfair treatment”, the Court ruled.

 

Not  a lot of impact

The Court of Justice’s ruling has little impact for most manufacturers. “We use the term soy drink, which does not create any confusion with milk”, Alpro said. “We are all in favour of organic food and we want to clearly distinguish ourselves from dairy products.”

 

Alpro and the Belgian dairy industry (BCZ)’s trade federation already clashed two years ago. BCZ felt Alpro could not use the term “yoghurt” for its soy products, but the judge ruled in Alpro’s favour at first: the judge felt that the “organic alternative to yoghurt” was clear enough for consumers. The Court of Appeals overruled that decision and Alpro immediately altered its labels and communication.

 

The BCZ was very happy with that ruling: “The Court clearly states that dairy names can only be used for authentic dairy products. It is clear that there are major nutritional differences between milk and certain organic products. Many consumers (barely) know the differences, which may have serious consequences. It is good that the names create a clear distinction.”

 

EVA, an organization for vegetarians, and others do not agree. Founder Tobias Leenaert is not happy with the ban: “It is utter nonsense that the consumer is being misled. The ban’s reasoning is purely commercial. A dairy reference should help bridge the gap to actually use alternatives, something the government should encourage.” Food experts call the judgment “ridiculous”.

Questions or comments? Please feel free to contact the editors


Gerelateerde items

Carrefour cuts thousands of jobs in favour of e-commerce

23/01/2018

French hypermarket group Carrefour is laying off thousands of employees, CEO Alexandre Bompard announced today. His new transformation plan, focused on e-commerce, is intended to turn Carrefour into the “global leader in food transition”.

Unilever will cut jobs at Belgian retail sales team

22/01/2018

Unilever Belgium will restructure its team of store representatives and cut eleven jobs. The company confirmed that to RetailDetail.

This is how fast Amazon is growing in food

22/01/2018

E-commerce is still underrepresented in food sales, but Amazon’s American and European 2017 growth numbers are impressive. Are we close to a tipping point?

Amazon opens first cash register-free store

22/01/2018

Amazon will open its first cash register-free store in Seattle today, near its main office. The trial with its own employees will now be extended to the general public.

Will Unilever acquire tonic brand Fever-Tree?

19/01/2018

Tonic brand Fever-Tree appointed a new director, Kevin Havelock. Considering he leads Unilever’s sodas division, there is speculation that Unilever may acquire Fevertree Drinks and that has boosted its share.

Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd collaborate for animal welfare

18/01/2018

Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd will join forces for a unique collaboration: they will launch their own animal welfare quality mark. “Fair & Gut” (Fair and Good) will launch in Germany for poultry products, but steadily expand.

Back to top