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09 Feb 2021


Agriculture & Food

A ban on the use of expressions such as ‘alternative to yoghurt’ or terms such as ‘creamy’ to describe plant-based alternatives to dairy – also known as ‘Amendment 171’ – will be discussed by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission in March. Amendment 171 would make it more difficult for consumers to make informed dietary choices based on their needs, and is inconsistent with the EU’s climate ambitions and commitments. 94 organisations call on Member States and the Commission to oppose Amendment 171.

On 23 October 2020, the European Parliament adopted Amendment 171 as part of its position on the Regulation establishing a Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (CMO Regulation). The Amendment is now part of the negotiations between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council, to be discussed in March. If adopted, it would prohibit any ‘evocation’ of dairy. Expressions such as ‘This product is suitable for people suffering from lactose intolerance’ or words such as ‘creamy’ and ‘buttery’ would be banned on packaging and advertising for plant-based alternatives to dairy. Amendment 171 could also mean a ban on recognised packaging formats such as oat drink in a milk-like carton, depictions of product on-pack – e.g. an image of coconut dessert – as well as on science-based, comparative green claims such as ‘half the carbon emissions of dairy butter’.

The use of dairy terms is already clearly and strictly regulated in the EU: These restrictions are therefore unnecessary, excessive and counterproductive. Through a joint letter co-signed with 93 organisations, the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF) calls on the European Commission and Member States to oppose Amendment 171, because:

  • The current EU regulatory framework – in place for over 30 years – already protects the use of dairy denominations: Labelling a product ‘soy milk’ or ‘vegan cheese’ is already prohibited. Amendment 171 is extreme overregulation;
  • Consumers rely on phrases such as ‘plant-based alternative to yoghurt’, ‘suitable for people suffering from lactose intolerance, ‘less CO2 emissions than butter’ to assess and choose food products more suitable to their needs (e.g. dietary preferences; health, environmental or ethical concerns). Amendment 171 goes against conscious and transparent consumer information. 
  • Plant-based foods offer possibilities for farmers to diversify their agricultural crops, in line with the Council’s call for an EU-wide Protein Transition Strategy to encourage the production of plant protein crops. Food business operators are also widening their portfolio with plant-based products, actively contributing to tackling the climate crisis. Driven by raising consumer demand, the sector is projected to become a € 7.5 billion market  by 2025. Amendment 171 would highly constrain the development of the plant-based food supply chain while going against the EU’s ambitions.
  • The transition towards more plant-based diets is a prerequisite to build sustainable food systems: The latest report by Chatham House identifies an increase in plant-based diets among the key changes needed for more biodiversity-supporting food systems. By preventing clear consumer communication on plant-based alternatives to dairy, Amendment 171 would jeopardise the sustainability goals of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and Member States’ climate commitments to the Paris Agreement. 

EAPF Secretary General Siska Pottie states: 

Consumers must be empowered to make informed food choices. The current regulatory framework already strictly regulates the use of dairy terms. There is no need nor justification to put extra communication restrictions which would further limit consumers’ information and access to plant-based foods. In light of the rising scientific evidence on the health and environmental benefits of moving towards more plant-based diets, we ask the European Commission and Member States to live up to their sustainability goals and ambitions by opposing Amendment 171 and creating a level playing field for plant-based foods’.

The letter comes after NGO ProVeg launched a petition against Amendment 171 called ‘Stop the Plant-based Dairy Censorship’ which has so far collected over 200.000 signatures.

The signatories call on the European Commission and the Member States in the Council of the European Union to be consistent with their initial position and to oppose Amendment 171.

For more information about this joint action, please contact: Siska Pottie, Secretary General of the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF), +32 2 786 30 42.


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