Politics & Law

UK Government Urged to Reject Alt Dairy Labelling Restrictions as Survey Says Consumers Aren’t Confused

After the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidance confirming that plant-based dairy alternatives can use the word “milk” on their packaging, the UK government has been urged to do the same.

Plant-based brands are currently banned from using dairy-like terms in the UK due to an EU law from 1987. But following Brexit, the UK government could choose to remove the labelling restrictions.

“British consumers do not support these restrictions”

Unfortunately, the country’s Food Standards and Information Focus Group (FSIFG) is currently attempting to do the opposite, lobbying for labelling laws to be tightened. The proposed restrictions would ban phrases such as “alternative to milk”, along with terms like “mylk” and “cheeze”.

While many have protested that the ban would serve no useful purpose — including Member of Parliament Kerry McCarthy, who has described the proposals as “ludicrous” — the FSIFG insists that consumers could be confused by the “misleading” use of dairy-like terms.

Upfield protests alt dairy labelling restrictions
© Upfield/Flora

Majority are not confused

However, new research commissioned by plant-based food manufacturer Upfield has shown that this is unlikely to be the case. The survey found that the vast majority of consumers were well aware of the difference between dairy and plant-based products — for example, 91% correctly identified that Flora Plant B+tter Salted was dairy-free.

“Do British officials really think that Brits are incapable of understanding the terms that people across the pond clearly don’t struggle with?” said Dominic Brisby, Upfield’s Regional President of Europe. “There is absolutely no problem with consumers being confused. Consumers know exactly what products they are picking off supermarket shelves.”

The UK’s Plant-Based Food Alliance and Alternative Proteins Association (APA) have now written to the government, expressing their concerns about the proposed restrictions in a letter co-signed by 44 organisations. These include Alpro, Oatly, Quorn, ProVeg, and GFI.

“We can only hope that common sense will prevail in the UK, as British consumers do not support these restrictions. An APA survey earlier this year found that 96% of English consumers are familiar with plant-based meat alternatives, and several studies have shown that the majority of consumers are not confused by plant-based dairy or meat denominations,” said APA president Jeremy Coller.

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