Politics & Law

APA: Plant-Based Labelling Restrictions Are Targeting a “Problem That Doesn’t Exist”

A report by the Alternative Proteins Association (APA) has argued that plant-based labelling restrictions will make life harder, not easier, for British consumers.

As lobbyists for the meat and dairy industries increasingly call for plant-based producers to be banned from using descriptors such as “oat milk”, “veggie burgers”, and “vegan cheese”, the APA is calling for “common-sense rules” on labelling. The association points out that contrary to claims by lobbyists, surveys consistently show that consumers are not confused by current labelling practices — in fact, meat-like and dairy-like terms are commonly used in everyday conversation when describing plant-based foods. Consequently, banning these terms would increase rather than decrease consumer confusion.

Furthermore, the report argues that less strict regulations could have several benefits for the UK, such as helping the country to achieve its net-zero goals, improvements in public health, and boosting British businesses.

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“Regressive rules”

The report comes after it was revealed in May that new UK Trading Standards guidelines could ban the use of dairy-like terms when marketing plant-based alternatives. This could include not just terms such as “oat milk”, but misspellings like “mylk” or “m*lk”. Descriptors such as “cheddar-style” or “yogurt alternative” could also be banned.

 The draft guidelines have been widely criticised, with the Plant-Based Food Association saying they would put businesses at risk and hamper the UK’s sustainability goals. MP Kerry McCarthy has condemned the proposals as “ludicrous”.

Similar legislation was rejected by the EU in 2021, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed in February that plant-based products can use the word “milk” on their packaging after research found that this was consumers’ preference.

“Brexit provided the freedom to do away with such regressive rules; yet far from reducing such pointless bureaucracy, British officials are currently considering adding to it,” said APA president Jeremy Coller. “As this report makes clear, such rules are a solution in search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist.”

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