Canadian animal law advocacy group Animal Justice announces it has been granted intervener status in a court case concerning the ability of plant–based food brand Rawesome to use the term “cheese” on its product labels.
“Consumers aren’t confused by cashew cheese, soy milk, or coconut yogurt”
In 2021, the city of Montreal filed charges against the brand, which produces a popular line of cashew-based cream cheeses, alleging its use of the term “cheese” could mislead consumers and should only describe foods made with cow dairy milk. However, Rawesome and Animal Justice counter that the brand’s packaging is not confusing, as it cleary states the products contain no dairy.
Rawesome is now suing the federal and provincial governments to challenge the constitutionality of the Food and Drugs Act’s decades-old regulations that limit the terms “milk” and “cheese” to products made “from the mammary gland of the cow”.
Animal Justice will now intervene in the case and argue that banning plant-based companies from using common terms like “cheese” and “milk” violates their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“A broader trend”
According to Animal Justice, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a long history of threatening vegan companies with sanctions for using terms like “milk”, “cheese” and “sausage” on their products, and says the latest actions are part of a broader censorship trend aimed at suppressing plant-based competition.
The organization also notes that the Canada Food Guide was updated in 2019 to eliminate the dairy category, and emphasize consuming more plant-based protein. “The case against Rawesome is part of a broader pattern of authorities singling out plant-based companies, and putting them at a disadvantage compared to animal-based food producers,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice.
She adds, “Consumers aren’t confused by cashew cheese, soy milk, or coconut yogurt. In fact, people are actively seeking out plant-based dairy alternatives because they are healthier, better for the planet, and don’t harm animals. Plant-based food is here to stay, and food regulators need to catch up with the times and stop unconstitutionally targeting companies spearheading food system innovation.”